The Erosion of Our Worth and Dignity

upmisxb0wd0-srikanta-h-uIn his proclamation declaring January 22, 1984, the National Sanctity of Human Rights Day, President Ronald Reagan wrote the following about abortion on demand:

“We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual.”

In his proclamation, Reagan claims that abortion has made this country poorer because it had eroded “our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual“. When the President wrote these words, 15 million babies had been aborted due to the ROE v. WADE decision. Today, that number stands at nearly 60 million babies. Sixty million lives lost due to abortion on demand. As a nation, we have been forced to develop a pretty thick callous over our hearts to ignore such a loss of life. There is even a huge segment of our population that justifies and defends abortion as a basic human right. President Reagan was correct — this callousness is beginning to permeate our culture in the way we treat all life.

Nearly every crime and injustice committed in this country can be attributed to a lack of respect for human life. Murder, discrimination, racism, hate crimes, rape, schoolyard, and cyber-bullying are all birthed amid this lack of respect for one another. It is a lack of respect that has existed since Cain first killed Abel but never had it been legitimized more than it was in 1973 when the United States legalized discrimination against its weakest citizens in the form of ROE v. WADE. And now, 44 years removed from that moment, respect for all human life is at an all-time low. Our hypocrisy is inescapable when we scream about the injustices so evident in our world yet encourage the murder of innocent babies. If we can’t defend the weakest among us, who is worth defending? 

The truth is, all lives matter in the sight of God and all lives are worth defending. However, the erosion President Reagan wrote of is a real thing. If our country doesn’t stand up and defend the rights of the unborn now, our culture’s respect for human life will continue to decline. Where will we be twenty years from now? What will be the state of crime in our country? Will we justify ending the lives of the elderly, sick, disabled, and obese prematurely? Heck, just look at the political landscape today. Ask yourselves, do the liberals in this country respect the conservatives and vice versa? If the lack of respect we’ve witnessed during our recent political season is any indication,  I have my doubts that our government will even be standing in its current form twenty years from now.

And it all started because we failed to protect the innocent.

God’s Word challenges us to defend those who can’t defend themselves:

“Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11, HCSB).

If we fail to do live up to this responsibility, Scripture makes it clear that we will someday answer to a God Who will “weigh our hearts” and “repay [us] according to [our] works” (Proverbs 24:12).

As difficult as it may be to put a cork back in the bottle that is ROE v. WADE, now is the time to do it. I call on our government to take every opportunity and every possible step needed to end abortion on demand in this country. If that means defunding Planned Parenthood, defund it. If it means stacking the deck on the Supreme Court than stack it.

We have reached a breaking point in this country and we can afford no further erosion to the dignity of our lives.

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National Sanctity of Human Life Day, January 22, 1984

wbc9xilqb4k-tim-bishCopied from reaganlibraryarchives.com

Proclamation 5147 — National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 1984
January 13, 1984

By the President of the United States
of America

A Proclamation

The values and freedoms we cherish as Americans rest on our fundamental commitment to the sanctity of human life. The first of the “unalienable rights” affirmed by our Declaration of Independence is the right to life itself, a right the Declaration states has been endowed by our Creator on all human beings — whether young or old, weak or strong, healthy or handicapped.

Since 1973, however, more than 15 million unborn children have died in legalized abortions — a tragedy of stunning dimensions that stands in sad contrast to our belief that each life is sacred. These children, over tenfold the number of Americans lost in all our Nation’s wars, will never laugh, never sing, never experience the joy of human love; nor will they strive to heal the sick, or feed the poor, or make peace among nations. Abortion has denied them the first and most basic of human rights, and we are infinitely poorer for their loss.

We are poorer not simply for lives not led and for contributions not made, but also for the erosion of our sense of the worth and dignity of every individual. To diminish the value of one category of human life is to diminish us all. Slavery, which treated Blacks as something less than human, to be bought and sold if convenient, cheapened human life and mocked our dedication to the freedom and equality of all men and women. Can we say that abortion — which treats the unborn as something less than human, to be destroyed if convenient — will be less corrosive to the values we hold dear?

We have been given the precious gift of human life, made more precious still by our births in or pilgrimages to a land of freedom. It is fitting, then, on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that struck down State anti-abortion laws, that we reflect anew on these blessings, and on our corresponding responsibility to guard with care the lives and freedoms of even the weakest of our fellow human beings.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 22, 1984, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon the citizens of this blessed land to gather on that day in homes and places of worship to give thanks for the gift of life, and to reaffirm our commitment to the dignity of every human being and the sanctity of each human life.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 13th day of January, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth.

Ronald Reagan

In Pursuit of the Truth: Is the news media capable of just reporting the truth?

nawkmlp3tvs-samantha-sophiaI watch a lot of news — probably too much if you ask my wife. I’m conservative, so most of the time my TV is tuned to Fox News, but I also try to be responsible and glean my news from additional sources. One of my favorite phone apps is “NPR News” because it instantly notifies me of breaking stories.

I must admit, however, that I have a problem with all my news sources — I don’t believe any of them anymore. Television, print, radio, internet … I’m convinced they’re all more concerned with peddling their personal agendas rather than reporting the news. One source wants to convince us that anyone who supports Obama and Hillary is a communist while the other tries to portray every Trump voter as a white supremacist. I simply refuse to believe such nonsense, however, the people that report the news seem to really believe it — and that’s a problem.

In the good old days, the news came on at six — the local news was first followed by the national news. The news anchors read the story and then moved on to the next one. They had to move quick because they generally had only a half an hour to get through it all. There was an order; news, weather, sports, goodnight.

I kind of miss those days.

With the advent of 24/7 news coverage, networks became pressured to fill time. That pressure resulted in more opinion pieces being woven into the news. When such “editorials” proved popular they began to dominate the timeslots more and more until there was no such thing as pure, unbiased news. Newspapers, blogs, and radio all followed suit. Some of the sources I see otherwise intelligent people cite actually frighten me with their bias. With all the talk of “fake news” in the media these days I feel like screaming, “It’s all fake news!”

It’s almost as if we’re no longer concerned with truth. We’d rather our opinions be validated than to learn the truth.

Scripture tells us that God is the God of Truth (Deuteronomy 32:4). Psalm 19:9 tells us that God’s judgments are true and righteous. Jesus even said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). When you read the Bible you can’t escape the idea that truth exists and is important to God. And if truth is important to God, it should be important to us.

By its very nature, truth is objective. I don’t get to determine truth. Truth is also no respecter of persons. What’s true for you is true for me. Because of its nature, only an objective God can determine what is true. Scripture teaches that Jesus was the Truth (John 14:6), that He spoke the Truth (John 18:37), and that He was executed for speaking that Truth.

Because the truth is objective, it is often offensive. When Jesus says “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” you may find it offensive, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

It’s the same with all truth. When we don’t like the truth we get offended. We attack. We argue. We cast aspersions. We do everything we can to nail the truth to a tree. Why? I suppose it’s easier to fight against the truth than it is to change our hearts.

We live in a day and age where news sources will knowingly report lies and then defend those lies by hiding behind the First Amendment. This will not change until we, as consumers of the news, begin to demand the truth.

Personally, I would rather my news sources just tell me what happened. Just tell me the truth so I can then turn to God through Scripture and prayer to discern how I should respond to that truth.

Then again, maybe Tom Cruise is right. Maybe we can’t handle the truth.

 

 

An Argument for Older, Mature Pastors

stanley
Pastor Charles Stanley

A few years ago a young man knocked on my door and invited me to his church. I was a little surprised, because of his young age, to discover he was the lead pastor of his church. I must confess that my initial reaction was negative. I remember thinking to myself that I could never follow a pastor as young as the man standing on my porch. I’ve often thought of that encounter and even repented a bit for my initial reaction. Scripture is rife with stories of God using the young and old alike and I’ve come to learn that, in His sovereignty, God can call and use whoever He sees fit. Perhaps I was a little jealous that such a young man had discovered His calling early in life while I was still struggling to determine my own.

But there are advantages to a pastor who has some years on him as opposed to one who is young. At the top of that list has to be an awareness of one’s dependance upon God. Age has a way of teaching us about our own limitations. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that nothing I’ve accomplished for the Gospel was accomplished in my own merit or in my own strength. I have developed an awareness of my own weakness and sinfulness that makes me appreciate God’s grace all the more. That same awareness should be present in a pastor. In his book, What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All Steve Brown writes the following:

Did you ever think that grace (i.e., God’s unmerited favor) is attracted to sin? That’s what the apostle Paul said: “The law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). 

Older, more experienced, pastors tend to be more aware of their weaknesses and their sin and because of that awareness grace abounds. A friend recently shared stories about a rehabilitation ministry he is involved with for recovering addicts. Essentially, addicts are placed in a secluded monastery where the grace of Jesus Christ is liberally applied to their wounds. The stories that come out of this ministry are beautiful because their sins are often so great that grace is multiplied. It’s the same for a pastor who is aware of his own sin – grace is multiplied.

Age, mistakes, regret, persecution, trials, and even sin have a tendency to mature a growing Christian. James puts it this way:

“2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, NASB). 

Granted, even a young pastor can possess the kind of spiritual maturity I am writing about, but young or old, this maturity is an essential quality in a pastor. The expectations we place on our church leaders tend to get things upside down. We want our pastors to be beacons of perfection. We want them to be the most holy, most perfect, and least sinful members of our church; yet when I think about the pastors that have taught me the most I discover they are the ones that know first hand the cost of their own sin and appreciate the grace it took to place them in the pulpit. Should pastors strive to be holy and provide an example for us to follow? Absolutely. But I don’t want a pastor who has simply read about trials – I want one that knows first-hand what I’m going through and can relate to my problems. Heck, if Jesus can relate to our temptations, shouldn’t our pastors?

“15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Our leaders need to remember their sin and remember the grace that conquered it. The Apostle Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament penned these words:

“15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). 

Paul went on to set the standards required of our pastors in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

“3 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

Above reproach, a one woman man, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted, gentle, peaceable, not greedy … there’s a reason these qualifications are written in the present tense. I don’t want my pastor to nurture any addictions, or to be angry, or to have a wandering eye … but if he can tell me about a time when his life failed to meet those qualifications and then tell me how Christ intervened in his life with grace … that’s the gospel! That story of redemption is going to resonate with me and give me hope … because I’m a sinner too.

I suppose I’m not arguing for physical maturity as much as I am spiritual maturity. We see pastors fall all the time. Ministries, families, and churches are far too often ripped apart because we’ve put someone in the pulpit that wasn’t spiritually mature and lacked an appreciation for the gravity of their own sin and the grace it took to conquer it. To reference Paul one last time, God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9) and unless a person understands that, they have no business in the pulpit.

 

 

Christianity’s Gift to the World

thinkingI’m currently reading a book by Steve Brown titles What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve Learned Since I Knew It All. Brown’s books are wonderful. Like me, he is a conservative Christian who believes in the inspiration of Scripture. Doctrinally, I think we are fairly similar. Yet, his writing takes you to new levels of reflection. The first time I read anything by Brown I remember thinking to myself that he was either a heretic or a genius – and it took me a while to figure out which. I’ve settled on genius. Brown writes in a way that is provocative. It’s like he is intentionally picking on the scabs conservative Christians walk around with. What he says makes you angry until you slowly start to realize it’s not Brown that is angering you, but rather God’s Word. And faced with that realization, there is nothing left to do but repent.

Basically, Brown makes me think. I’m sure some people find him annoying – some may have even settled on heretical – but I appreciate him. Here’s a quote from What Was I Thinking? that I currently can’t get out of my mind:

“Our gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation. Our gift to the world is to find where the Holy Spirit is creating beauty, speaking truth, and manifesting goodness—and when we find it, to identify it, enjoy it, affirm it, and get involved in it” (p. 64)

It’s that’s first sentence that has stuck with me … “Our [Christians] gift to the world is not one of anger, judgment, or condemnation.” Too often, that’s the face we present to world around us – anger, judgment, and condemnation. When, in reality, the Church should be an extension of God’s gift to the world – grace, mercy, and salvation through His Son.

Brown makes the further point that because of our anger and disgust with the world around us, Christians often retreat to the Church. We take safe haven in our churches and our Christian subculture because we are convinced that’s where the Holy Spirit is. We do it because it makes us feel safe yet our safety comes at the expense of the culture around us. We create a divide between the sacred and the secular and then refuse to cross it for fear of sacrificing our own righteousness. But it’s important to understand that this divide is man made. From God’s perspective there is no “secular”. The gospel of John makes that clear:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

All things came into being through Him. It’s this fact that gives God the authority to speak into the hearts of every man and into the core of every situation. It’s that fact that gives Jesus the authority to forgive our sins. It’s that fact that gives God the right to determine that salvation must be accomplished according to His plan rather than our own. It’s that fact that is the foundation of grace. And when we retreat in disgust from the world around us and take refuge in our Christian subculture we are failing to take that gift of grace to the very people that need it the most. Jesus understood this. That’s why He hung out with sinners. That’s why He said,“It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Even the Great Commission, our marching orders from Christ, instruct us to take His message of grace to the world, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). 

When Christian present nothing to the world but anger, judgment, and condemnation and then retreat back to the safety of our own Christian subculture, we are forfeiting the one gift we have to give the world. It is imperative that Christians refuse to forfeit our input and voice to the culture we live in. Music, arts, literature, science … all of these things stand to benefit from the input of Christians.

If we want to deliver Christ’s grace to the world, we must be engaged in the world. Jesus once prayed for His disciples, “14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus didn’t pray for His disciples to be taken out of the world; rather, He prayed that they be kept safe from the evil one as they engaged the world for Him. 

Christ’s prayer should be the strategy of the Church. Rather than withdrawing from the world and drawing imaginary lines between the secular and the sacred, we should engage the world. We should deliver Christ’s gospel to the sic and refuse to sacrifice our voice while tending to our own safety.

Genius.

Quit Changing the Characters of My Youth

From marvel-movies.wikia.com

First, Nick Fury was suddenly a black guy. That was cool. I mean, let’s face it, no one was that attached to Nick Fury anyway and Samuel L. Jackson managed to completely reinvent the character. Jackson made Fury credible enough to hang out with the likes of Captain American and the Hulk without being overshadowed. But this trend to “reinvent” the wheel is getting a little out of hand.

miles
from the comiclibrary.tumblr.com

I tried to read a Spider-Man comic the other day. Spidey was the first super hero I really identified with. I was five or six years old when I fell in love with the Amazing Spider-Man and his alter ego, Peter Parker. Pete was a guy I could identify with. He had school problems, work problems, girl problems, and family problems. Because he was a normal guy, his life sometimes sucked. And when he put on a mask things didn’t always get better. Sometimes he failed. But along the way he taught me a lot of stuff. For instance, he taught me that with great power comes great responsibility. And he taught me that sometimes the Hobgoblins of life are gonna knock you on your backside, but giving up isn’t an option. It’s how we respond to the obstacles in life that make us a hero. Peter Parker and Spider-Man are important to me. I grew up with him. But when I tried to read his book the other day, the Spider-man I love is gone. In one universe, he’s Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker’s body. If you think that’s weird, in the other universe he’s a black-hispanic kid named Miles Morales. Uh, what?

Look. I think it would be awesome to create a black hero of Puerto Rican descent. I mean really. We need more minority super heroes. I think it’s a wonderful idea. I could even support turning Doctor Octopus into a hero so readers can learn wonderful lessons about redemption and repentance and all that – the story lines could be deep, substantive and powerful.

But why can’t they do that while leaving Peter Parker alone? He’s my hero. Did they have to sacrifice him on the altar of change?

And it doesn’t stop with Peter Parker. At some point, Thor became a girl, Superman died, and Jim Gordon became the Batman.

What?

Thor_Goddess_of_Thunder_Character_Art.0
from polygon.com

Even minor characters are getting makeovers. I recently watched the debut episode of Supergirl and really enjoyed it, but I was somewhat confused as to why the Jimmy Olsen I know as a skinny, red-headed, pip-squeak is suddenly a large, muscular, hunky black guy. I mean really – how did that happen? Was there surgery involved?

There are even some people advocating that 007 himself should be gay and the Bond movies should do away with Bond girls. I’m sorry, but that would no longer be James Bond. He is a super spy with a fatal attraction to the opposite sex – that’s who he is! Furthermore, Spider-Man is Peter Parker, Thor’s a big, muscular dude, Superman is alive, the Batman is Bruce Wayne, and Jimmy Olsen is a pip-squeak!

Why don’t we go ahead and reinvent the Hulk as a pacifist?

I get that in some cases these changes reflect important progress and changes in our culture. I agree that we need more minority heroes for the youth of today to look up to. Super heroes should come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and ethnicities! All that is fine and dandy and necessary. But for some of us, these are established characters we have literally grown up with. These characters are important to us because someone, somewhere sat down at a typewriter or drawing board, engaged their creative gifts, and invented them.

Instead of reinventing established characters who are important, why not invent new characters. Do for this generation what Stan Lee, Ian Fleming, and others did for mine and quit screwing around with the characters of my youth.

Knowing Verses Obeying God’s Voice

image from citygatekeepers.org

In Christian circles these days we can get bogged down with the concept of knowing God’s voice when we hear it. I’ve even taught whole classes on discerning God’s voice from that of the enemy and our own subtle thoughts. In retrospect, I’m beginning to realize the problem with most Christians isn’t knowing God’s voice when we hear it, but rather, our problem is heeding His voice when it directs us toward obedience.

When speaking on this subject Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them” (John 10:27, emphasis mine). Even newer Christians who have spent little time in His Word have the ability to discern God’s voice on most subjects. Sitting under the preaching of a decent pastor and attending an occasional Bible study is sure to communicate some things to us concerning God’s voice, right?

For instance, when asked what the greatest of all the commandments were, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … and the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). Even if we can’t quote this popular passage, most of us at least know it, right? I have to think even non-Christians know this passage. If not this one than we certainly know the portion of 1 John 4:8 that says “God is love.” So when asked the questions, “How should you love God?” or “How should you treat your neighbors?” most of us should be able to discern God’s voice on the matter. Knowing what God wants us to do isn’t the problem …

The problem is we don’t do it. 

When given the opportunity to put God first in our lives we consistently choose ourselves. When given the opportunity to love our neighbors as we love ourselves we make excuses and decline. When God tries to save our marriage we throw our hands up and do what we want to do anyway. When God says don’t have sex with that person or you shouldn’t be looking at that website or please don’t make that choice we boldly declare that we know what’s best and fail over and over and over to be obedient.

This kind of disobedience can be expected out a person who doesn’t know Jesus, but for us Christians it is inexcusable. We choose to disobey God’s voice and then claim ignorance when, in fact, we’re just selfish.

I fear that this kind of disobedience has become the norm in the Western Church rather than the exception. This disconnect between our knowledge and our actions is damaging the testimony of the Church. The non-Christians in our culture see that disconnect and dismiss Christ because of it. Our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ see that disconnect and choose to embrace it rather than change it. James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26) and I have to believe that works blossom from obedience to God’s voice.

Christians … it is time we stop just telling the world what we know and start showing them what we believe.