Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Heart & Mind of Humanity: Reflections on Suffering, Choice, & Jesus Christ

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart. Proverbs 21:2 ESV

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh  Ezekiel 11:19 ESV

The story is told of the minister who came outside to grab the morning mail, only to find someone had ran into his car.  The damaged appeared quite serious.  He leaned down at the rear of his car and noticed radiator fluid.  It wasn't coming from his car, so it must've come from the hit and run vehicle.  Knowing a bit about cars he realized that they would quickly break down with a badly leaking radiator.  So he woke up his wife, and they took her vehicle down the road.  Sure enough, a mile down the road they found the vehicle broke down.  The minister, wanting to show compassion walked over and spoke to the two 20 year olds standing outside the vehicle.  

"Are you alright my child?" said the minister to the boys.  He could smell alcohol on both of them, as one replied:

"Yes minister," replied the young man as a police car rolled up behind both cars.  "I just can't understand why God would do this to me."  

It's true isn't it?  When our luck is down, or something terrible happens so often we look to the heavens and ask: How could you do this God?  How could you let this happen?  

Yet so often upon reflection we see that we are the guilty ones.  Our actions, our choices led us to the situations that break our hearts.  Then we shout angrily to heaven "God, how could you!?"  But did God really do it?  No, much of the time it was us and then we pay the consequences, just like the boys in the car.  And an on looker would probably say, "Good!  You deserve it!"

And I've done the same thing.  I've watched the news and said:  "Good, justice is done!"  But when it's me in the hot seat, strangely enough, I want infinite mercy and my mind tends to blame it on God.  

Even at a higher scope, one could say look at the world.  Look at all the pain and suffering.  How could God allow it?  Look at all this evil!  How can a good God be reconciled with all this? 

Yet was it really God?  Did God pollute the skies?  No, man did that.  Did God toss plastic bottles down from heaven by the millions to create an island of waste in the Pacific ocean the size of Texas?  No, man did that.  Did God exterminate 6 million Jewish people in the holocaust?  No.  That was Hitler, and the Nazi regime.  Did God take your son or daughter?  Or was it a drunk driver?  Do you see?  God gives us choices to make.  We can't control what choices others will make.  That leads to evil, and suffering.  And more often than not, our own choices have contributed to that state of evil, not lessened it.  Are we really the victims of everything around us?  Or are we the authors of these troubles around us?  

Dr. Ravi Zacharias a philosopher I follow regularly once visited death camps, preserved after the second world war in Germany.  He describes how he saw the piles of human hair scalped from those exterminated.  He describes the piles of tooth brushes, and clothes striped from toddlers before they were fed into the gas ovens.  Upon seeing these things Dr. Zacharias and his group were speechless.  But he said that as he looked down at the remains in these empty rooms, he realized he wasn't looking at some external evil.  He realized he was looking at his own heart.  He was looking at the wicked heart of man.  

We all have that heart capable of great good, and great evil.  Yet are we really so free with it?  Or does it often dictate to us?  How often have we known the right thing to do, but did the wrong thing instead?  

Only the Christian worldview recognizes this truth.  In God's eternal plan, part of the formula of his scheme of salvation is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The holy spirit is this being, this person, this force that helps us to override that wicked heart and fly in the face of evil, and choose God against our own overpowering desire for fleeting pleasures.  

There is this struggle in the world.  It plays out personally in you and me, and it plays out academically, in the sciences, in the public arena, in politics, and it plays out internationally between countries.  
When Jesus came to Earth in the form and function of man his message cut sheer divides in groups of people.  He spoke before crowds, he spoke before tens and hundreds and thousands.  Time and again in the scriptures it says "There was a large group of people there. Many of them were talking secretly to each other about Jesus. Some people said, “He is a good man.” But others said, “No, he fools the people.”" John 7:12-13

There is one moment in John chapter 7 that is really just so ironic I can't help but laugh to myself every time I read it.  It says:

25 Then some of the people who lived in Jerusalem said, “This is the man they are trying to kill. 26 But he is teaching where everyone can see and hear him. And no one is trying to stop him from teaching. Maybe the leaders have decided that he really is the Messiah. 27 But when the real Messiah comes, no one will know where he comes from. And we know where this man’s home is.”
28 Jesus was still teaching in the Temple area when he said loudly, “Do you really know me and where I am from? I am here, but not by my own decision. I was sent by one who is very real. But you don’t know him. 29 I know him because I am from him. He is the one who sent me.” John 7:25-29 (ERV).

Notice the people all thought, this is Jesus son of Joseph from Galilee.  They read in the scriptures that no one would know where he is from.  Jesus is actually "from" Bethlehem.  He was born in Bethlehem, but grew up in Nazareth, which is in Galilee.  So the scriptures were right, they didn't know where he was from, but they thought they did.  So they're standing there, fulfilling what the OT scriptures said about them, that they wouldn't know where he was from, while knowing that very scripture, and not realizing the paradox.  And at that very moment, Jesus says, "Do you really know where I'm from?"  They thought they did, but they didn't.  Crazy stuff.  Everyone knew the scriptures, and that no prophet would ever come from Galilee.  But Jesus wasn't from Galilee, he was from Bethlehem.  

We see this dividing factor again and again in the three year ministry of Jesus.  Something will happen, Jesus will tell a parable, share a story, give a sermon, and then the reaction is documented in the crowd.  Some are convicted by these words and believe in him.  Others are hardened by his words and refuse to believe.  

Have you ever openly discussed Jesus Christ in a crowded area?  How about before a crowd?  Or at a college?  Or in almost any setting?  

No matter where on Earth you are, something will immediately happen.  I have seen it time and again.  I still recall the first time I noticed this intriguing dichotomy.  I was at a food pantry in my hometown with about forty others.  This was only about four months after I had encountered Christ and he had saved my soul.  I was on fire for Christ.  I was talking with several others about God, about Jesus.  I'm not sure how the conversation started.  But it was somewhat "scandalous" you might say.  I don't think it was scandalous, I think it was normal.  But when you start talking at slightly raised voices about Jesus in a public place, people will get salty.  First me and one person were talking about Jesus.  Then another person joined the conversation, praising how Jesus is so awesome.  Then a fourth and a fifth.  And I thought wow this is just really cool.  I felt a joy filling me.  Then I noticed this one person with a sort of "darkened" look on their face beginning to talk in opposition, just quietly enough for us to hear.  Then another joined in on the "darkened" discussion, kind of jeering and bashing religion.  Then another.  I noticed all of this, and it really astounded me at the moment.  It hit me.  I realized I was seeing one of the most ancient dichotomies in the history of mankind.  It went back to Jesus speaking to the crowds.  It went back to Moses, Joshua, and Aaron and their opponents: Jannes and Jambres.  It went back to Elijah's stand offs with the false prophets of Baal.  It went back to the very first murder in the dispute between Cain and Abel.  

And not only does such an ancient dichotomy go backward, it's also epitomized in modern day society.  Christianity vs. naturalism on the national stage in United States culture and politics.  The false dichotomy of "science vs. religion." 

Truth is spoken, one group is sympathetic to it.  The other group is biased against it.  In chapter 12 of John it's documented that Jesus Christ prayed to heaven a prayer, "Father, glorify your name."  And that a voice from heaven responded audibly to the prayer.  This was done before a group of people.  I find it so interesting the dual response.  One group thinks it was God who spoke from heaven.  The other group says "it was just thunder."  That's perfect, just perfect.  It reminds me of the debate between unguided evolutionary origins and the intelligent design movement.  I mean it's obvious, so incredibly obvious from what the crowd just heard, that a voice spoke from heaven.  In the same way, when scientists look at the universe through the telescope and the cell through the microscope, the impression of a finely tuned, designed universe is "overwhelming" say so many, most notably Paul Davies (British Astrophysicist).  Yet many will say, as they study the human genome, the cell and the sky, that they must constantly remind themselves that what they are looking at is not designed.  Because it was just thunder, and it can't be God.  They have categorically refused the possibility of God before even beginning their inquiry. 

This is nothing new.  Reverse in time with me near two thousand years to the historian Thallus' account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Scripture records that the sky went dark over calvary at the death of Jesus.  Thallus, an outside source, an ancient historian records this event, but refuses to believe it's a divine happening and instead attributes this to a solar eclipse.  Yet when studying that part of history astrologically, there was a lunar eclipse around that period, but no solar eclipse is possible on the same day as a lunar eclipse.  Josephus, Tacitus, and Thallus ancient historians all document mention of Jesus Christ and his ministry.  These are some of the most respected documents in human history.  They are indisputably considered factual historical accounts.  Of course quotations by Josephus seeming to regard Jesus too highly are constantly debated by historians.  Yet given the wealth of evidence, why the debate?  Would any other name like Napoleon or Plato quoted by historians ever face the fierce debate surrounding mentions of Jesus Christ?  Definitely not.  And it goes back to the simple dichotomy that is triggered whenever Jesus Christ spoke: some are sympathetic, some are antagonistic.   

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Deceased comedian George Carlin said, "I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood."  I had to chuckle when I read that quote.  I've taken several classes on church history and read (I almost wrote written) the apologies of Justin Martyr.  Justin Martyr and I must be kindred souls.  In the very first century one of the common claims against the Christian faith was that it's symbol of the cross was too gruesome.  2,000 years ago they said, and a few years ago George Carlin said it.  These are not subjective matters, they are objective, and substantive over history.  Cultural studies tend toward this idea of subjectivity.  Some aspects are subjective, but there are also currents that run through every human heart.  This is one of them, and the more history passes, well, it doesn't change.  The objections are the same.  It's the same with the new atheists, which amounted to a simple rehashing of a bunch of bunk arguments. 
The human heart hasn't changed.  It's still wicked.  We can see that from the trouble in our world.  It's easy to tell when looking at poverty, war, genocide, and disease.  

It's an easy observation to make of someone else of course.  But can we make it of ourselves?  Can I admit that I have a wicked heart?  Now don't get me wrong.  This is not to mean that we are totally wicked, and evil.  That is not the case.  Every human being is part of a race made in the image of God.  The divine spark is within you and it's within me.  But when we humble ourselves and admit our need for a savior, our need for a Holy Spirit within, our need for a heavenly Father, we come into alignment with the truth.  We come into the purpose of existence.  We come into the truth about life.  We also and especially come into the solution to every problem on Earth, every problem in heavenly places, and every problem within you and me.  We ought to choose that over remaining stubborn in our own infinite arrogance and rebellion.  Such people are fools.  I can see that now.  And they deserve what they get.  I don't say that to be callous or cruel.  But eventually, after so many offers to have a change of mind, one must finally be allowed to drift off into the darkness they've chosen for themselves.  They may not realize what they're doing, they may not realize the full implications, but they've chosen resistance and rebellion.  It hurts those around them, it hurts them, and eventually it destroys them.  

I can't force them to change, you can't force them to change, even God himself will not violate their sacred right to free choice.  So they choose that end.  And I can understand that.  We are creatures tending toward self destruction.  Women will skip over the good guy and go after the bad boy, and they're so surprised when their hearts are smashed to bits.  A man will choose to take a hit of a drug, something he knows is wrong, but overpowered by excitement and peer pressure, he cracks open a door that one day years later stops his heart.  We choose what is wrong for us so often, don't we?

I work and have worked as an AODA (Alcohol and other Drug Abuse) counselor for several years.  I worked for over a year at a homeless shelter in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin.  This winter I'll be working at another shelter/warming center at my new TSA posting in Escanaba, Michigan.  My vocation goal isn't as a counselor though, I'll be serving as an intern in Escanaba in preparation to begin officership training in 2016.

Let me tell you that the Salvation Army is a very blessed institution.  All the tools are there.  I had a great and wonderful manager who had us doing case working with the population, aoda groups, mental health groups, daily meals, clothing give aways, we'd get them vouchers for hair cuts, free memberships to the YMCA, we'd help them apply for jobs, work on their GED, and find apartments.  It's all there.  Every single thing a person needs to get back on their feet.  And many would.  But there would always be many more what you call "chronically homeless" who end up being the nightmare of your life.  They refuse all the help.  Or they take advantage of it.  They save up a bunch of money, then blow it all.  They would find a job, then lose it two weeks later.  Quit the drinking and drugging, then relapse a day later in a grandiose display of bizarre behavior.

I would sit down with the alcoholic and try to help them admit the problem.  I'd try to help them to see their need for programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, or Smart Recovery.  But most, if not all, will refuse.  They'll argue.  They'll jab at you.  They'll get angry.  They'll b.s. you belong to get what they want then ditch out.  Lots of games, manipulations, and difficulties with this type.  But one thing is certain, you can see the pride, rebellion, and rationalization in their eyes.  They don't want to see the problem.  They refuse to see it.  And as people we can justify anything.  We can justify anything.  

I came in with a lot of pep and drive.  I wanted to sober up the world.  I wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with every homeless person I met.  It wasn't anything like I thought it would be.  In fact after the year was up and I got my new assignment in Escanaba, I felt in reflection I had done very little.  And at times I felt betrayed by God himself.  "Lord, please help these people, please change them, please set your Holy Spirit to work in this shelter!"  One of the hardest experiences of my life thus far, was seeing that I couldn't help them.  They couldn't see, I couldn't force them to see.  Yet on further reflection I saw a few people, maybe 12, that had been impacted.  Some of them were attending AA in the area.  Some had gone out of the town and were doing well.  Some had begun attending the Salvation Army church services.  Others were working steady jobs.  So perhaps it hadn't been a total loss. 

All of that to say: Some will come to the cross today, others will come later, and some will never come.  It's the same with the homeless I worked with.  Some will recover sooner, some later, some much later after they've suffered a great deal due to addiction, others might finally sober up after years in prison and others will die with a needle in their arm, or a bottle in their hand, or frozen in a snowbank knowing, fully knowing through and through that they are not an alcoholic addict and they can handle it.  The same is probably true for humanity as we make our way through this troubled valley they call Earth.  Some of us have the cross today, others will have it tomorrow or the next day, and some will never have it.  Some of us climb the ladder of light, others choose to wallow in the depths of darkness.  

What will your choice be?  Can you see your need for a savior?  Can you see your need for rebirth?  I've been reborn.  But I still have that heart tending toward wrong-doing.  I can see it many a day.  I wake up and I don't want to pray.  I don't want to invite God into my day.  I don't want to ask his provision and protection for the day ahead.  But I try to force myself anyway.  Can you see your heart?  Can you see who you are, unobstructed?  That's what I'm trying to do.  I'm trying to pull away the barriers, so you can see your need and the solution.  The solution is Jesus.

Today in society it's all about appearances.  We live one life in private, another at work, another before family, and another on the town at night.  

As I once read and recited to my family physician, "A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant roses."  He didn't think that was very funny.  God can see us in a timeless state.  He can see all our blemishes, past, present, and future.  There is no hiding our poor conduct in this area.  It's all recorded.  And in that we see our need for a savior.  And as we've previously discussed, in our own suffering we see our own failings, and the goodness of God; we see our need for a Holy Spirit.  Finally, in the evil and suffering of the world we see our need for a Heavenly Father.  What would the world be like if every person on Earth lived as God describes in the Bible?  It would be a perfect world.  What kind of world would it be with God as sovereign Lord?  It would be a garden of paradise.  And one day it will be again.  

I'll close with this illustration from my life.  Recently just a few weeks ago I moved from Wausau to Escanaba.  It's been a challenging transition for me.  I don't know anyone here.  But I've met the corp officers I'll be working with and they are the most wonderful and supportive people I could possibly imagine.  God is with me in Escanaba.  

But my two cats Kitty and Kittone are having a hard time.  Every night they meow continuously.  One night a few nights ago they were meowing loudly around midnight.  I had to be up early.  It was for the first staff meeting at the Escanaba Salvation Army corp.  I was feeling increasingly troubled and feeling a sort of frenzied state of anxiety coming over me.  You know how it is, when you can't sleep and you know you have to be up early.  Just terrible!  I kept yelling at the two cats to shut up, and be quiet, but they just kept meowing incessantly.  At the pinnacle of frustration laying in bed I called out a desperate prayer to God, "God please make these cats shut up!"  I felt a calm come over me a few moments later.  Then I heard myself calling them to me, "Kitties, come here."  They both walked up to the bed, jumped up, nestled against my leg and fell asleep.  

They were afraid.  They needed to be loved.  It was simple.  But I couldn't see it.  I believe in the same way, many are afraid today.  They are lost and confused.  They don't know what to do.  We need to love them.  We need to show them that they aren't alone.  We need to carry the message of the gospel with love, grace, and friendship.  

That's why, when dealing with the chronically homeless at the shelter and I see the guy who got into a drunken fight two weeks early and made it a hell of a night for me, I walk up to him, shake his hand, and let him know that I love him and I forgive him.  

Remember the Priest from Les Miserables?  And the man Jean Valjean?  Valjean had stolen a loaf of bread and been imprisoned for many years.  Then he had been released.  He came to the home of a priest, and was allowed to stay there on a rainy night.  The Priest gave him food and drink the next morning.  The man stole everything he could, then bashed the priest in the head with a candlestick to make his escape.  On his way down the street Valjean was caught by a police officer, noticing the candle sticks and fine belongings.  He brought the man to the priest's house and threw him down before the priest.  The priest stared the man in the eyes, and turned to the officer and said, "I gave all these belongings to this man, he didn't steal anything."  Then the priest loaded a few more things on the man, saying "You forgot these things as well!"  Then the officer seeing there was no crime left.  Then Valjean, astounded, left as well.  The man was so impacted by the experience, he dedicated the rest of his life to serving the poor.  The priest did a crazy thing by our modern standards don't you think?  He did the opposite of what most of us would do in that situation.  Think about that, real grace, not a sunny sermon, not a cute idea, but real grace.  Today, tomorrow, the next day, who is God calling you to help?  Who is God calling you to bless after they've spit in your face and stolen from you?  Who is God calling you to love, forgive, and show unmerited grace to?  

And if you don't know Jesus, let me ask you a question: Have you ever spoken to him?  Have you even said a word to him? Dare you try? Might you pause for a few moments, and even say "hi" or "good morning God." Or "Who are you God?" 

You can do so. Anyone may do so. Even if you aren't religious, even if you don't believe in all of that. Maybe you owe it to yourself to pause a few moments, and see if God is really real, if Jesus is really God. 

"Jesus, reveal yourself to me." Then watch, observe, not over hours, but over days, and weeks, and months. He will in fact reveal himself to you. Maybe not in the ways you'd expect. But he will. 

We have the choice to close our eyes. Or to begin to reciprocate in that interaction. Begin today. No one will know but you. Give it a try. He's there with you. He's everywhere. He can hear your vocal prayer, or your silent prayer. God bless you, he loves you. Have a wonderful day!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV

Related Posts:
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  2. A Cause Worth Dying For: Materialism, Millennials
  3. Faith in the 21st Century: The Seven Key aspects of Faith
  4. Life after Death: Law, Eternity, and the Changed Mind
  5. Wisdom from Above: Living in Light of the Victory of Christ
  6. The Mindset of Christ: Teach Me How to Live, Lord
  7. A Rational Inquiry of the Bible: Is it reliable? Is it the word of God?
  8. Ten Great Minds, Ten Controversial Presentations 
  9. Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics & Philosophy Renaissance
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Coming into Maturity: Grace, Love, and Service

Proverb 29:27 The righteous despise the unjust; the wicked despise the godly.

The dichotomy mentioned is Proverb 29:27 is being played out in our culture today.  Jesus said the world will hate you.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.  

The world may be against us.  It most certainly is.  But it isn't so bad.  God is with us.  Of course it's better to be with God.  Hopefully we can keep those one in the same.  And mainly by not keeping anything, but allowing God to do the "keeping."  

He keeps us in the palm of his hand.  Of course that's just a metaphor.  He doesn't promise us particularly easy conditions.  Yet it is likely that our lives will improve in God-ways.  In the ways of the world, no, but that doesn't matter anyway.  The Christian life is the best life, not because of ease and comfort, but because of meaningfulness, and the finding of the ultimate foundation of life, God himself.  It is the best life now, just not in a worldly way.  I have found the very meaning of life, the very purpose of being, that is the best life for me, now, and forever.  

We know what it means to follow Jesus Christ.  We know what it means to trust in him, and his victory, to be Christian.  But can we come into maturity?  Is there a deeper Christian life?  There most certainly is.   

It's not necessarily some incredible breakthrough.  But it seems to be a growing process.  Let us examine ourselves.  Often we must look back to the simple disciplines.  Even all the way back to the very basic precept of faith: Is God at the center?  Is God the only number one of my life, and your life?  Would you forsake your own family, your own friends, your social status to remain loyal to God?  

Or as Jesus said: "If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple." -Luke 14:26 (NLT)

A group of thugs break into your house at night, and put guns to your wife, your children, and you.  They demand that you renounce Christ or they'll kill your family.  What do you do?  Some might think this is a ridiculous proposition.  In fact, it's a daily possibility for persecuted Christians in dozens of countries in the middle east.  What would you do?   

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11

Family is second to God.  God comes first.  Our allegiance to God comes before everything else in our lives, even our families.  We have to make sure our order in the mind is correct.

Assuming we serve God alone, with all we have, how can we understand our salvation in our minds?  We don't always feel these things.  Feeling does not dictate reality.  Thank God for that.  Feeling tends to follow I think, it lags behind our understanding, but eventually catches up.  

This is coming into maturity, when we begin to feel and to know the things we believe.  God reveals himself through knowledge, one of the most blessed gifts of being human: the gift of language, of art, and of writing.  God speaks to us through knowledge.  He helps us to know him through the revelation of Jesus Christ, in knowledge, received through belief. 

Jesus taught through parables.  A parable is a simple story, used to describe a spiritual truth.  Let's see if we can understand our salvation through the idea of an orchard.  There is a lot of confusion about what it means to be a born-again follower of Jesus Christ.  Mainly the issue is of the life one lives once saved.  Secondly the issue is once we are saved, can we lose our salvation?  

Being saved is like being transplanted, made new in Jesus Christ, and replanted in a beautiful orchard of apple trees.  You are one of the orchard, the body of Christ on Earth.  There is no way to work your way into the orchard with good works or with service to others, or personal holiness.  The only way to be born again into the orchard is by grace, through faith alone in Jesus Christ.  God the Father draws us to the son Jesus and we receive him as our own.  Once entered into the orchard, the believer rests all their trust, all their hope, all their faith on Jesus Christ, that he is the sole reason they are born again, saved, washed clean of their past sins, and may now enter eternal life in the future.  That is the first aspect of the arrangement of salvation.

But there is a second aspect to this arrangement often neglected, that is sanctification, or growing in holiness.  This is a requirement of the arrangement.  They often call this "repentance."  I don't like that word, so we'll call it "embracing a changed mind."  We decide to abandon our opinions about what is right and wrong, and we embrace what God says in the Bible.  We begin to transition from lustful attitudes, sinful attitudes, selfishness, and fear, transitioning into ever-increasing holiness.  We grow into the fruits of the spirit through the working of the Holy Spirit upon us, in the process of sanctification.

The only way to go about growing in holiness is through Jesus Christ.  We stay very close to God, praying in the Spirit, cooperating with God in our sanctification.  We start to deal with sin issues, like selfishness, over-eating, cigarette smoking, poor sexual behavior, drinking too much, the list could be extended greatly.  In so doing, we the new tree transplanted into the orchard begins to grow up.  Roots begin to dig deeply into the ground.  The trunk begins to thicken, protecting the tree from weather, insects, and other issues.  Branches begin to stretch out, strengthening the tree, reaching up toward heaven.  The sun beats down, strengthening the tree.  The river along side the orchard nourishes the tree helping it grow green and strong.  A lifelong process has begun, of learning to live in the Spirit.

Romans 8:13 (ESV) says "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

When the tree, the believer lives according to the Spirit and embraces holiness, sanctification; then they live.  But I think we've all seen the opposite.  Let's take an example of the opposite: You see the individual really embrace Christ, they really see their need for a savior, and they come into the family.  But they don't necessarily want to change the way they live.  They still go out and get drunk regularly.  They still engage in sex with random guys or girls, and then make excuses for it.  When they're confronted about their poor conduct they get angry, say how they're saved by grace, and tell the person to stop judging them.  Eventually this person becomes confused.  They start to lose their faith in Christ.  They start to fasten their thoughts to ideas in the world like naturalism, wealth, greed, etc.  More and more you notice them with arms folded over their chest during the sermon with an upset look on their face on Sundays.  Eventually they stop coming all together.  Maybe you see them one day at a coffee shop and ask them where they've been.  Then they cross their arms over their chest, they have a somewhat flustered, defiant look in their eyes.  And they go on a short little tirade about how the church is oppressive, and the Bible isn't really real, and God doesn't really exist, and look at how Christians treat LGBT people.  You can tell by the look in their eyes that they're desperate and they don't even believe what they are saying.  They're just tossing out generalizations made by the culture, because they know deep down Jesus is God, but they don't want to change how they live.  This is the tree transplanted into the orchard that begins to dry up, shrivel, turn gray, and bears sour fruit.  This tree is dug up by the keeper of the orchard and tossed into the brush fire (John 15:6).  And it is burned (John 15:6).

There is a third requirement, Jesus talks about it in John chapter 15 when he speaks of the parable of the vine and the branches.  Jesus also alludes to it in the parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25.  Also in Matthew 7:17-20 (ESV) Jesus says, "So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."  

In other words, we must bear good fruit to be a part of the orchard.  What does bearing fruit mean?  Bearing fruit means doing good works in the service of God.  It means serving the lost, showing mercy to those who have done evil, and it means sharing the gospel.  It means faith in action.  

So in every due season, the owner of the orchard comes out and finds good fruit on the branches of the trees, and collects the fruit.  In producing fruit we find the formula for abiding in Christ. We abide in Christ forever, when we show love to his people, and mercy to his people (1 John 2:17).  We abide (remain) in Christ when we live as Christ lived (1 John 2:6).  We abide in Christ forever when we bear fruit in keeping with his mandates (John 14:15).  

 Now let's look briefly at three mindsets that can help us mature in the knowledge of God's design for the salvation of humanity.  We'll call these three the mindset of grace, the mindset of love, and the mindset of service.

1. A Mindset of Grace.

1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 

Someone might say, "You're preaching a works gospel!"  That isn't the case.  That's what you call a straw-man argument.  They misrepresent the description and then attack the distortion they hold up as your view.  

The gospel is that Jesus Christ is God with us (Immanuel).  He lived a perfect life of love and service.  He died a perfect death on the cross calling upon heaven asking God to forgive the people killing him.  Three days later he reclaimed his life supernaturally, and walked the Earth physically showing himself to hundreds of people in the process.  We trust in that completely, we have faith that Christ died in our place on the cross.  That means we are then transplanted into the orchard of God.  We are made new in his family.  

The debate comes when we say that falling away is a possibility.  The scriptures are tireless on this point, of the fact of falling away, there are hundreds of scriptures that testify to that reality, but still many say "once saved, always saved."  It's a troubling false doctrine they call "eternal security."  Sadly it leads to many thinking they are saved, and they are not.  Eternal security is part of the "TULIP" the five points of Calvinism.  Many in the reformed crowd hold to this view.  It's important to remember that when debating issues like "eternal security vs. conditional security" and "egalitarian vs. complementarian" and "christus victor vs. penal substitutionary atonement", these are what we call family arguments.  Christians all believe in certain core truths from the Bible, and these are more side arguments.  We're all still Christians.  

But the correct view in light of the full witness of the four gospels and the NT letters is something called "conditional security."  Conditional security means we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ.  But it also means once we are saved, born again, it is our responsibility to pursue and build upon that foundation.  If we do not, we wither, grow disillusioned, and eventually will fall away from the cornerstone, faith in Christ. 

The mindset of grace means we know that through Christ alone we have obtained eternal life.  It is the most important focus of the mind in this three-fold understanding.  We need to rest all of our hopes, all of our  faith, and all of our life work on the understanding that Jesus Christ has made us perfect before God.  We rest everything on the work of Christ in his life, death, and resurrection.  We do not trust in our works, but trust in Christ alone.  And we feel deeply assured in our minds that God will keep us safely in his orchard, in his pasture, in his safe care until the very day of Christ.  

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) says "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  We may know in our minds and feel in our hearts that our salvation is securely placed with God in Christ in heaven, and that God will work tirelessly to keep us in the family.  We may resist that, but if we choose to embrace it, we need never fear falling away.  

2. A Mindset of Love.

1 Peter 1:22 (ESV) Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Now let's talk holiness.  Or as theologians say "the process of sanctification."  This is the mindset of love.  At first that might seem like an odd position of the mind.  Shouldn't it be more like a "mindset of holiness" or a "mindset of growth?"  Those might be good ways to look at repentance, the changed mind, but I think the perfect way to see sanctification is through love.  

The scriptures say, "This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:3-4 NIV).

God says that love is, in definition: keeping his commands.  This is the whole formula put extremely succinctly.  Love is keeping God's commands.  His commands aren't super-difficult either.  Why?  Because we have been reborn in God's family, meaning the power of God working in us makes this possible (the Holy Spirit's work).  Finally, the victories in the process of sanctification, of growing holiness, are made possible due to our faith in Jesus.  Without faith, there is no hope of any change.  But what are God's commands?

Jesus reduced it to these two: Love God completely, with everything you have, and Love Others with a full heart (Mark 12:30-31 ESV).

So in a mindset of love, we also are growing in holiness. We're learning to sin less and less, because love does not sin against his neighbor or God.  We're learning to be holy, because love is intrinsic to holiness. 

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
1 John 3:9

We might be tempted to think, yeah, love is great, I'm going to love and then just skip to something else.  Love is not necessarily an easy thing to do.  We may want to slow down and spend some time trying to comprehend what love means.  

I know in my personal walk with God, I feel an aching in me, that I don't really have enough love for God and for others.  I tend toward selfishness a lot of the time.  I tend to move through life with a good amount of brokenness, resentment, and even coldness.  Especially when I get busy and I'm tired or sick, which is often, I tend to be cold toward others, disconnected, and resentful.  By the end of the day I may feel hollowed out, and hurt by the worries of the day.  By night it may seem like absolutely no love endures within me.  So I pray about it a great deal.  Let's not just pass over the idea of love.  Let's look at what love means, and how we incorporate an attitude of love in our daily actions.  Love is this:

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."  -1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

Let us program into our mindset of salvation an attitude of patience, kindness, humility, and rejoicing in truth.  Let us radically bear difficulties, let us radically believe in God's provision, let us radically hope for the future eternal life, and let us radically endure all manner of persecutions and wrong-doings.  Let us carry in our minds an eternal state of love. 

3. Mindset of Service.

Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV) But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  

This scripture indicates a situation where two of Jesus' followers were arguing over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. 

When it says "Gentiles" that word simply means non-Jews.  Gentiles are you and me, unless you're reading from Israel.  And isn't that the truth?  The Gentiles lord it over their people.  In America that is the certainly the case, a ruling elite tend to control the country while the American people are generally held helpless, voting for one of two parties run by the same elite oligarchy.  You could also see this in the context of church government in the Roman Catholic church.  The entire organization is run by one man, a Pope, who can even issue dictates that may contradict scripture, because he is considered God's representative on Earth.  Even in many mega-churches in the United States you see the attitude of "lording it over" the "little people" like you and me.  One could think of the Mark Driscoll situation at the Mars Hill church network.  A group of something like 13 different former pastors wrote a letter of complaint to the church board, indicating an autocratic rule and an environment of abuse toward contrary opinions.  That's lording it over the gentiles.  We are called to quite the opposite.  How can we live it?

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." -James 1:27 ESV

Service is just another way for saying that we bear good fruit.  There are so many applications to the idea of bearing fruit.  During one of my last classes at Liberty University we looked at this idea of practical ministry.  The book for the class was called Reforming Mercy Ministry by Ted Rivera, I highly recommend it.  Rivera looks at 33 ways to practically engage in service to others.   

Service, bear fruit, is inexorably linked to showing mercy.  Are we merciful to others?  Do we offer forgiveness abundantly?  Or do we harbor all kinds of resentments from years past?  God requires us to be merciful.  

I'll share two example from my own life.  The first is from about ten years ago when I was caught shoplifting at a grocery store in Kiel, WI.  Obviously not one of my best moments.  It was before I became a Christian of course.  I was caught.  I started crying, and begging the store manager for mercy.  He refused, and called the police.  I kept repeating, "Do you believe in God?  Please forgive me, I'm sorry!"  Then an old woman, looked like an old Catholic lady walked past during this twisted scene and stared at me coldly and said, "Damn you!"  Then she walked away.  The police officer arrived and rescued me from this twisted scene.  Of course I've long repented of that behavior and made my amends to those I harmed.  But its amazing how beautiful mercy is, and how ugly condemnation can be.  

Secondly, I've had my issues with those in the church.  One could say I had a certain nemesis, who did all he could to cause problems for me in the church.  I felt deeply harmed by this individual.  He said some things about me.  He got into leadership and did what he could to freeze me out of leadership positions.  He took my ideas and used them for his own.  He did things that really hit issues of trust from my past, when my parents divorced, and issues with being picked on, like I was picked on in public school.  But, the point is, I have prayed for this person.  I have forgiven this person in my heart.  I have had to fight for that forgiveness, because of the hot emotions attached to that situation.  But forgiveness has come.  We must fight for that attitude of service and merciful forgiveness.  

The mindset of service is certainly extremely practical made up of prayer, sharing the gospel, serving in a food pantry, handing out bibles, helping people with home repairs, teaching, being a greeter at church, writing a blog, sharing scripture on social media, and hundreds of other possible applications.  But it's also an attitude of the mind.  It's a mindset of showing mercy.  It's a mindset of general humility.  We don't jaunt around like we're better than the people we serve.  We meet them at equal standing.  We're all equal under God.  We don't hide all of our ugly stories from the past.  After all, wasn't it the man who captained a slave ship the man who wrote, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me?"  We share authentically.  We don't worry about appearances when we can show people that God's grace is for those who have done terrible things.  The mindset of service is one of love, the showing of mercy, offering forgiveness, and of course meeting the needs of others.  Through service we bear fruit in keeping with repentance, and abide forever in Jesus Christ our savior.  

In conclusion, when we're first reborn into the family of Christ we have a lot of growing to do.  Eventually after several years we begin to come into maturity.  Inevitably over the years we'll continue to grow into new states of maturity.  One of the first stages of growth and maturity is that of understanding the tri-fold mindset of grace through faith, growth in love, and merciful service to others.  The attitude of assured salvation in Jesus Christ, grace, must be paramount, followed by growth in holiness, and merciful service to others.  All three of these mind-states must be overflowing with love, love, and more love.  Love is the perfection of all these states of mind and action.  Therefore, let love flow from you at all times: love for your God, love for your family, love for society, love for God's creation, love for those in your view daily, and love for those who have done terrible things to you. 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.1 John 4:9-10 ESV


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 ESV

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 ESV

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV 

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Cause Worth Dying For: Materialism, Millennials, & the Authentic Mission

You there, yes you, playing the video games, come out of it, and take up your ministry.  You on the beach working on your tan, take up your place in service.  You surfing the net, browsing your pornography, come out of it and serve the lost.  You in the business world, end your service to selfishness and embrace service to the poor.  

Where are the young people?  Where are the young adults?  It seems like every church I walk into I see only a few young adults, if any.

Is sin really that great?  Is darkness really so relieving?  No.  Those exploits are empty.  I know, I tried all of them.  They go nowhere, and they take more than they give. 

Are you one of them?  A young adult?  Trying to understand your place in the world?  Let me ask you a few things.

We can sit around campfires, on cold beaches, or in incense basements talking about the problems of the world.  But nothing changes until we do something.  I mean really do something.  Are we so incapable?  Are you so sleepy?  Where is your desire for hope?  Have you lost your will?  Are you drunk on the delights of this world?  Have you lost your power to believe in a better world?  Can you still smile?  

Or do the days just drone on?  Is all light out of every interaction?  Does everything seem gray?  Does everything seem shallow and empty?  

I know a lot about pleasure seeking.  It doesn't lead anywhere good.  Those of it's pursuits can hardly say it delivers.  It never goes anywhere good.  Does it?  Does demented pleasure ever give up an end?  Does pleasure ever say 'I've had enough'?  

Do you care about anyone?  Do you love anyone for their sake?  Do you still dream?  If so, what do you dream of?  

Are you rushed through life?  Does it seem like a dreary thing?  Are you tired of these dogged escapades?  Are you tired of playing the bad guy?  Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?  

Could you want something better?  Could you even want to want it?  

Are you overworked?  Do you feel poured out for another?  On a daily basis?  

Do your eyes glean something better?  Could you possibly comprehend?  Could your heart sense something greater?  Might a spirit be working a sacred portent?

Let me ask you something, very simple: Is the Christian God real?  

If not, then don't waste another minute of your time.  There's the door.  If the Christian God is simply a family tradition, a nice story, a cultural myth, or a moral teaching then we might as well toss it all aside.  It's nothing.

But, if the answer is yes then there is a desperate state of urgency.  If yes, that God is really real, and that he really reveals himself through the ancient writings of the Bible, how should we respond?  What do we do?  And could this be the great cause of causes?  Could it be the truth?  Could it be the truth even if we don't like it at first? 

There really is no middle ground.  God can be real, God can be imaginary.  He cannot be somewhat real.  I believe God is real.  He reveals himself through the Bible.  There are so many roads of inquiry to see that God is real, so many that we've ventured upon on this website.  If you'd like to begin digging into the reasonable inquiry of God, click here

For me, upon study, research, reading, science, philosophy, and every manner of inquiry I've learned that the Christian God is real, truly is, and truly is the cause of the universe.  Since then, believing fully that God is really real our priority must be his mission.

What is his mission?  His mission is the sharing of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection.  His message is the good news of the absolution, the forgiveness of all transgressions, through trust.  His message is the welcoming of the people of the Earth, humanity, into his family through the cross of Christ.  His message is the gospel, the good news that Jesus restores our connection to God in this broken doomed world.  All we have to do is believe in one he sent, Jesus, and then live that mission of love and service.  Believe in Christ! 

There are millions upon millions of people, in our own communities who don't know Jesus.  I'm sad to say that most of them, many of them are millennials like me.  (Those born between 1980-2000).  These people are lost without a savior, and it shows.  What can we do to reach them?  And why don't our churches penetrate into those people groups?  And if you're one of those people, who brought you here?  Why are you reading these words?  Could it possibly be, just possibly be, that God is guiding you right now?  Could his hand be on your shoulder? 

I was so hungry years ago, for something pure, for something real, for something authentic, and I so desperately wanted to know the truth.  Tell me the truth!  For God sake, tell me the truth!  Where is the manual?  Why is everything so wrong?  What's wrong with this world!?

The answer is simple, God is real, and he has revealed himself in the book...  Only the purity and authenticity of His message could reach me.  In Christ alone I found true authenticity, true purity, and the truth itself.  A way, when I had asked so many times: "Where do we go from here?"  Jesus Christ showed himself to be the way.  I thought I was looking for a perfect ideology, a perfect equation, it turned out that I came to a person, to Christ.  All of that revealed through the book.

The God, the supreme being who created the universe ex nihilo as they say, has chosen to reveal himself through a book.  Why?  Freedom.  He isn't going to force anyone to believe in him.  If he made himself known and seen fully, and physically, there would no longer be any choice.  God gives us a choice. We encounter this God, the real one, through a book.  They call that book the Bible.  But Bible just means "book."  I love that.  There is no grand title.  It's not plated in gold.  In fact many times the Christian life is like that.  No gold, no fancy ceremonies.  It's just a relationship with God.  A God whose name is "I am who I am."  As they say, Yahweh.  Elohim. Jehovah. Adonai.  Or just "abba" which means "daddy."  Daddy in the most intimate terms in fact.  And  of course Our blessed savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ just means God who saves, the messiah.  Messiah means the chosen one.   Just like you, the one reading these words, has been chosen to be a brother, a sister of Christ, of myself, and of the family on Earth.

Seems like a lot of evangelicals think reaching millennials means pushing it as a new "experience."  Well at best then they come in maybe for a new experience, and then in a few months they move on to something more entertaining.  What do you say Mr. millennial? A new experience?  There are plenty of tantalizing experiences out there in sex, addiction, and materialism.  What's to stop them from finding a new one tomorrow?  A new experience? That isn't the key.  The key is the truth.  People like me, people in their twenties, college kids, they are hungry for the truth.  And they aren't getting it at the university.  Often times they don't get it at church either. 

At the university they're getting a lot of empty garbage like relativism, post-modernism, darwinism, marxism, liberalism, self help psychology, eastern mysticisms, and new age metaphysical self flagellation.  Yet the mind recoils against a lot of these things.  Why?  Because they aren't true.  Many of them contain pieces of truth, but young people are hungry for a fundamental meaning.  They want something of substance.  There is no real substance in any of those ideologies.  But if the Christian faith is the truth about everything, and I know it is, then it's exactly what they're looking for.

It was exactly what I needed, but I didn't want it.  I came like C.S. Lewis, very hesitantly.  But in the end, God helped me to see his eternal reality.  It changed everything in my life.  It fundamentally changed how I see everything in the world.  That is the only Christianity that can transform my generation; my family of millennials needs the real Christianity.  Not the fake one, not the watered down one, not the experiential one, not the emergent one, not the gay friendly one, or the universalist one, but the real one.  

Show me some boundaries!  It's all an open space in post-modernism.  And it's so open, selfish, and self-serving that its unliveable.  There's just nothing there to help explain existence or provide a cause for living.  And those who don't believe in anything, who haven't founded a fortress of barriers, positions, and concrete views, are liable to fall for anything.  And they are.  Anything easy.  Any priceless cause.  Any liberal issue that requires no personal sacrifice.  Sad to see, sad to see.  

Paradoxically the free generation, open to new ideas, and all of that, deserves a cause of discipline, righteousness, hard work, and a cause to die for.  

My generation is starving for want of a solid ethic from which to approach life.  Post-modernism is like candy, sweets: "Do whatever you want, whatever's true for you is your reality."  It seems sweet, but once you've had your fill your stomach aches, and you find yourself wanting for meat, potatoes, vegetables, and the truly nourishing things of life.  

The gospel is the nourishment we require.  The codes of clear ethics, boundaries, and standards within the Bible are required.  They help me to live for something greater than myself.  That is what is needed.  The cross, the God of love is something I'm willing and able to stand for, and die for.  The radical Christian mission is hidden by this body guard of lies, this distorted false church epitomized in the church channel on Cable, ministries set on making money, and churches heart-set on watering down the gospel as a sort of family support venture.  We've got a lot of men and women trying to make it clear how important and prominent they are.  And the true gospel is neglected.  But the radical true gospel of those fighting the good fight in the wilderness, turned aside by society, mocked and ridiculed by the elite, is waiting for cause-lovers to champion.  It's not one you hear about a lot.  Because the honorable, humble ones aren't out to draw headlines and gather everyone to their "brand" of ministry.  Instead they just patiently work and serve, doing beautiful things in hidden areas where few see.  That is the work God calls us to.  That is the purity of the mission of the Christian gospel that attracts young people.

Give me something hard to do!  Give me a challenge!  Show me a real cause!  Show me how to be a man!  Show me what it means to be human!

God gives me all of that and more!  Hard is the way, and narrow is the path!  Awesome.  Discipline, standards, boundaries, show me more of this!

In conclusion, millennials, young people, my friends and family of humanity, we need you!  Are you one of the few that can receive this message?  Are you one of the few that will come out of all that stupid pointless selfishness, and really serve in a noble, true cause?  Is that you?  Are you tired of all the selfishness?  Are you tired of all the depravity, sexuality, and corruption?  Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Then it's you.  I hope you'll take up this cause. I hope it's you who will serve.  This mission is the real meaning of life.  It's a fact.  

The true mission may be overshadowed by selfish self interested ministries everywhere we look, but don't be deceived, the pure, true, real mission of the gospel, of the Christian faith, is of love, truth, holiness, humility, and selflessness; out of the limelight, but nestled in the constant light of God.  They call that grace.  And it's authentic.  Authenticity is like a rare wild flower along this journey of life.  Everyone has an angle, some product or service, and they want your money, your body, or your ideas to serve their own interests.  Jesus Christ wants you, all of you, mind, body, and soul to join him in this mission and to become a permanent part of the family of God.  And there is no other.  This is the truth.  Believe the truth.  Come out of the darkness, and into the light.  

I know you will, maybe today, or when the time is right.  Out of the selfishness, out of the lies, out of the false ideologies, out of the bogus philosophies, and out of the corruption of this world.  My brothers and sisters, the young, the misled, the broken, the fallen, the addicted, the lost, the starving, the confused, the empty... come this way!  Come the way of the cross.  This is a narrow road, a path that describes clearly the truth of this life.  It isn't easy, it takes real work, and that's what makes it worth it.  It offends some.  It troubles others.  It disturbs me, convicts me of areas in myself I'd rather not change!  But it's the truth.  It's real. That's why I love it.  It calls me out.  It defines existence.  It apposes the status quo of wealth, greed, and selfish ambition.  It's the meaning of life.  Come this way, to the cross.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

What is the Truth about Abortion? Fact, Fiction, Christianity, and Humanism

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Notice: This piece of writing is being rated PG-13 by the author.  Parental guidance is highly encouraged.  This post contains some disturbing descriptions, but sometimes the truth needs to disturb us, so we're prompted to action.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 
-Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

What is abortion?  And what does it mean to be pro-life?  Abortion was made legal in the United States in 1973 after the landmark ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade.  This decision was made at the Supreme Court level and then enforced upon the federal, state, and local levels.  

Planned Parenthood an organization that runs abortion clinics across the country, paid for largely by tax-payer dollars has recently been involved in a major controversy.  Pro-life groups went under cover and videoed conversations with top officials in Planned Parenthood, discussing the sale of fetal body parts from aborted babies.  

These videos have triggered outrage on a national level, sparking protests in major cities.  The mainstream television media, aside from Fox News has largely ignored the controversy.  Many conservative groups have accused major media outlets with biased reporting.  Planned Parenthood leaders had a rebuttal to the videos, saying they were highly edited.  A few days later the White House issued the same statements as Planned Parenthood, defending the actions of the organization.  The Pro-life groups involved have issued new videos week by week, triggering further outrage and plans for legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.  Even during the first two Republican presidential primaries the topic of Planned Parenthood came up, and candidates issued statements in opposition to Planned Parenthood, expressing desires to defund the organization.  

Despite all the noise and controversy, there are several truths that must be examined: First of all, what do Christians believe regarding pregnancy, birth, rape, and abortion?  Second, what arguments do secular materialists and liberals present regarding abortion?  Third, how do Christians respond to the political situation, in personal ethics, and in familial conduct?

Is abortion really the extermination of children?  For an evangelical Christian, the answer has to be yes.  Why?  Because God knew you and he knew me while we were still in the womb (Psalm 139).  But what if it's God will that abortions should happen?  What if God allowed abortion procedures to take place and so following, gave us the choice to do so?  Doesn't that make the action of aborting a fetus OK?  I don't believe that to be the case.  God does give humans free choices, but he also asks us to make wise choices.  God gives us the choice to have a cup of coffee or tea.  God also gives us the choice to love our neighbor, or kill our neighbor.  Just because the choice exists, doesn't mean all courses are moral and approved.

The case is this: Abortion would not be necessary if the Protestant ethic were ruling the minds of the nation.  Don't be deceived, only 80 years ago the Protestant ethos was the centerpiece of American culture.  It can be again.  Don't let anyone tell you that it's gone too far and it can never be changed and "progress" and so on.  Anything can happen.  The gospel has transformed cultures, transformed entire societies and it will again.  Wait and see. 

Abortion is the necessary entailment of a culture of sexual depravity.  The sexual revolution took place in the 60s and 70s. The natural result of poor sexual conduct, immature sex-no-strings-attached is that a few strings pop up.  IE: pregnancy.  The sex revolutionist wishes to reject this unfortunate reality of sexual intercourse, therefore abortion is necessary.  The unwanted child, a result of a one night stand or a random sexual encounter, must then be exterminated.     

Abortion is evil.  Watch a documentary or two.  Witness an abortion procedure.  Watch the developing child sucked out of the woman's body.  Watch a partial birth abortion where the child's throat is slit and the corpse is tossed into a bucket for later organ harvesting.  Abortion is evil.  If people can't see that, it's because they are blind, unknowingly, or willfully, they are blind, and they can no longer tell goodness from hell.  

Is abortion child sacrifice?  Yes it is.  It is another life put on the chopping block for the sake of convenience.  It is the natural solution for a consumer society that prefers convenience over liberty, lies over truth, pleasure over principles.  Some issues are multiple shades of gray, this one is not.  This issue is black and white.  

I had a friend who had an abortion.  She regrets it to this day.  She told me how sometimes she cries late at night thinking about it.  She has tried for several years now to get pregnant again in the hopes of somehow atoning for the crime she feels she committed.  She's not a Christian.  But something deep within her knows that what happened was wrong.  I've heard that same story again and again.  Another friend of mine got pregnant out of wedlock.  In an attempt to terminate the pregnancy, she slammed a bottle of lemon juice.  The fetus came out prematurely on her bathroom floor and she laid there crying for hours in horror.  This isn't a black and white issue.  But it is a women's rights issue.  Women are being deceived, and pushed toward abortion.  Abortions they often regret.  Women have a right to know the truth.

For the last year before moving to my new posting at the Salvation Army of Escanaba, I worked at a homeless shelter in Wisconsin.  There was a girl there who was pregnant, late into her pregnancy.  She was considering an abortion.  According to Wisconsin law she was no longer eligible because she was so late in her term.  She was able to contact an organization in Illinois that would transport her from Wisconsin to Illinois, conduct the abortion, and transport her back to Wisconsin for no cost whatsoever.  A group of Christians was trying to convince her to keep the child, or give it up for adoption, but alas, she elected to go have the pregnancy terminated.  It's amazing how the funding for such programs works.  It's amazing the lengths they will go.  And how women are being conned.  It's wrong. 

What if the child were a result of rape or incest?  Think about it.  Is the fetus a life?  If left uninterrupted would it mature into a human being?  If the answer to those questions is yes, then to abort the child created through rape or incest is still murder. When Native American women were raped by white settlers, many of them became pregnant.  The children of those violent crimes were raised as members of the tribe.  They were loved, and cherished.  And some of them became great leaders of the tribe.  Could we learn from that example today?

What does it mean for a Christian to be pro-life?  For a Christian to be pro-life, it means to speak the truth.  Many Christian leaders simply ignore this issue because it might mean less money in their coffers. Unacceptable.  For a Christian to be pro-life it also means supporting organizations and causes that fight for life.  Yet it also means loving those who struggle with sexual issues.  It means loving those who are considering having an abortion, and helping them to realize the sanctity of life.  

The Christian worldview set apart from any other, recognizes the sovereign right of a single person.  One person is significant, important, and ought to be treated fairly.  A single life, made in the image of God is of infinite importance. Life begins at conception.  Where else would it begin?  These issues are clear.  For the Christian we know that every person is made in the image of God.  If I impede on their rights as an individual, I'm stepping on sacred ground.  

There is a war on in Europe and the United States.  It's not a war of tanks or armies, but a war of worldviews.  The Protestant/Catholic view of life has largely been supplanted in Europe by the rise of secular humanism.  In the United States the Protestant ethos hasn't vanished as easily, putting up a spirited fight against the forces of secularization.  

Humanism quietly captured the universities and public areas of culture and society, and now history, politics, science, and philosophy are all being rewritten in it's image.  This sort of humanist revolution has captured the educational institutions from public schools up to the universities and in so doing they have turned the tide hard against the remaining protestant forces.  Young people are the future.  And they're being deceived.  Yet young people are starting to wake up to this farce, and they're turning to Christ.  Because the reality is, humanism is empty.  Humanism is a vacuum, new age ideologies have been found superficial, Christ alone carries weight.  

Abortion is a side effect of this revolution of humanism, materialism, naturalism, scientism, whatever you want to call it.  I fear for the future of western civilization if this revolution finishes it's ugly work, building it's fences in every sector of society to keep Christians out.  Because in the vacuum of meaning, truth, and morality, has come depravity, crime, depression, rising suicide rates, corruption in all areas of society, and of course, abortion.  Abortion, the organized genocide of over 53 million people.  People who would have had names.  People who would have contributed to society.  What accomplishments would they have made?  What contributions?  What new discoveries?  What books would've been written?  What wondrous works of art?  What breakthroughs of science and medicine?  No one will ever know now.  They have been killed within the body of their own mother.  Think about that, their own mother chose it.  How terrible, how truly terrible.

The truth about abortion forces the Christian to be a proponent for life.  Being a proponent for life means speaking the truth about abortion.  It also means advocating for the mother, and for the dignity of the mother.  It means sharing the love of Christ through adoption agencies, free medical care, and support systems for single mothers.  It means gathering around the pregnant mother with love, affection, encouragement, protection, and monetary support.  It means helping these mothers raise their children to understand that life is sacred, and a gift from God.  

God has given us the incredible gift of choice.  We can do wondrous things with it, or terrible things with it.  God asks us to treat life as sacred.  Choose today: Is your answer "yes Lord" or "no Lord?"  He gives you that choice.  Choose carefully.  We will all account for our actions and our words someday.  Mark my words.  God will call us to give an answer.   

In conclusion, abortion must be apposed and abolished.  Christians must stand up for the truth.  Although humanism has crippled many of the foundations of American and western society, mainly morality, there is still hope for a Christian remnant to renew the culture in holiness.  Part of that process is fighting for the right to life.  There are many organizations actively fighting to do just that.  Here are some organizations that support life:

Abolish Human Abortion
National Right to Life
Pro-Life America
Life News 
Students for Life
All Life
Operation Rescue

"For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ." -2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NET)

Right to Life Protest in Washington D.C. 2013, Creative Commons via Google Images
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