Do You Reciprocate​ God’s Love?

sunset-hands-love-womanIn his post “A Key Ingredient for Friendship“, blogger and pastor Lyn Perry identifies reciprocity as a key ingredient for friendship. He does so after reading about William Shatner’s damaged friendship with Leonard Nimoy in the book Leonard. Perry writes, “Without reciprocity, friendships fail.” And he’s right … it’s hard to love someone that doesn’t love you back.

It’s so hard, in fact, that I suspect even the best of us would eventually tire of an unreciprocated friendship. Heck, I’m only going to care for so long. Eventually, I’m going to write you off if you fail to love me back. I say that even though God role-models something much different.

The oft-quoted verse John 3:16 begins with the words “For God so loved the world …” God loved the world that would crucify His Son. God loved the world that would, by and large, reject Him. Yet God doesn’t write us off. In response to His unrequited love for the world, God displays patience and desires the best for us (2 Peter 3:9).

God’s unrequited love for the world is the most remarkable kind of love ever displayed. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t just love sinners, He put His Son on the cross for sinners.

That is remarkable!

I write all of this to arrive at a point. It’s not just an unbelieving world that fails to respond to God’s love. There are many of us Christians who are still failing to reciprocate God’s love for us. We give lip-service to our faith in Christ yet continue to live in a way that doesn’t reflect our profession of faith. This is what James was saying when he wrote, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

In the cross, Christ displayed the most remarkable kind of love for the world and Christians, of all people, should be responding to and reciprocating that love. If I’m being honest, I go through periods where my life doesn’t reflect God’s love. I am prone to selfishness. I sometimes allow my mountains to take my eyes off My Rock. My prayer is for that to change dramatically in 2017. I want to love people more. I want to serve myself less than I serve God. Mainly, I want to reciprocate the love God has shown me. Because His love is truly remarkable.

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.

 

 

God, Faith, Empirical Evidence and Grace.

skepticSkeptics commonly charge that if any such thing as God actually existed there would be empirical evidence available for all of us to study and thus recognize His existence. Empirical evidence meaning evidence that can be observed, measured, and experimented with according to Scientific Methodology. Skeptics suggest such evidence would remove all doubt to the existence of God and presumably put us all on the same playing field.

My first reaction to such claims is that I’m not entirely sure it’s impossible to measure and observe the existence of a Biblical God … and I plan on writing some posts in the future to address this. However, I suspect what most skeptics are objecting to is the fact that God hasn’t removed each and every one of their own doubts. One skeptic I encountered took great offense that Jesus would offer proof to “Doubting” Thomas by way of allowing him to examine His scars, however, He has never appeared and offered the same proof to modern-day skeptics.

So skeptics take umbrage to the idea that God has not removed all of their doubts, questions, fears, and concerns. Why wouldn’t God make His presence known beyond a shadow of a doubt for everyone to see? It’s a fair question. In fact, it’s a question I’ve asked in the past and it’s the question I hope to address with this post.

It’s quite helpful to examine the life, ministry, and teachings of Christ when asking questions of God. Christ is, after all, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). The Son reveals the Father to us and, as it turns out, Jesus was asked a very similar question as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, You will keep on hearing, but will not understandYou will keep on seeing, but will not perceive15 For the heart of this people has become dullWith their ears they scarcely hearAnd they have closed their eyesOtherwise they would see with their eyesHear with their earsAnd understand with their heart and returnAnd I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

In this passage, the Apostles ask Jesus why He so often teaches people using parables. In other words, they asked Him why He didn’t give it to the people strait. Why did Jesus speak in parables when He could offer them empirical, objective, measurable, and scientific proof? Jesus’ answer provides us with a clue as to what’s going on.

Jesus tells His disciples that he speaks to the multitudes in parables because while they are seeing, they don’t see, and while they are hearing, they don’t understand. Jesus tells His disciples that the hearts of the people have grown dull. There problem wasn’t that Jesus had failed to provide them with proof, but rather they had rejected the proof He had already offered. The same Jesus that now spoke to the multitudes in parables had healed the sick, preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was near, healed the blind, exorcised demons, and even raised the dead! He had given them proof but they failed to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. They saw, but they didn’t see. They heard, but they didn’t understand. Their hearts were dull. So now, Jesus spoke to them in parables.

By their very nature, parables are designed to make people think. They take a fable, fairy tale, or story and place it along side reality in a way that illuminates and reveals the truth. On the surface they may seem like simple stories, but as you dig into them a little but truth is revealed. Jesus used parables when speaking to people who had, by and large, rejected Him. Their hearts were dull, so Jesus used parables to engage their mind. He wanted them to think about what He said. His parables served two purposes. For believers, those who had been granted to know the mysteries of the Gospel, would hear a parable and learn even more about their God. Unbelievers, those with a dull heart, would in turn be given something to chew on, to ponder, and to contemplate.

The alternative was simple. Jesus could have simply given them undeniable proof, but he had already done that. He had performed miracles and preached the Kingdom and they rejected Him. So He spoke to them in parables as an act of grace. Jesus didn’t want people to reject Him outright and then face the consequences of their decisions. He wanted them chew on the parables, contemplate them, and engage their minds until their heart followed. Why?

“[Because] The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9, NASB.

It doesn’t matter how skeptical you are. You could be the staunchest of all the atheists and God’s desire is for you to come to repentance. He does not want you to perish in hell. So Jesus spoke to them in parables as a way to save them from themselves. It is better for the skeptical to ponder and contemplate a parable than it is for them to outright reject Christ. Parables are an act of grace.

In the same way, God has given us enough evidence in our world to lead us to Christ. The skeptic who demands empirical, measurable, scientific, and undeniable proofs from God is failing to see the evidence that is already there. They see without seeing, they hear without understanding. And in all fairness, yes God could appear and prove His existence to them beyond a shadow of doubt, but then they would be forced to make a choice their heart may not be ready to make. Many of the skeptics who watched Jesus perform miracles blamed evil spirits. Others failed to understand. Others demanded more signs. God bowing to your wishes and appearing before you to perform miracles is no guarantee of your willingness to believe …

Some would claim it was all special effects. Others would say it was magic or evil spirits. Others would claim God’s “in your face” miracles violated their free will to choose. Still more would demand more and more proof. Their resistance and denial would lead to their perishing.

So God gives you enough to engage your mind and your brain. He gives you enough proof to ponder and consider the world around you. To study Scriptures for yourselves. He is patiently waiting for you to accept Jesus because His desire is for none of us to perish. He is patiently showing all skeptics grace. 

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” Romans 1:20, NASB.

Look At The Book Labs with John Piper

I use the Logos Bible Software in my daily study time and for the last several days I’ve been using a course of study from John Piper called the “Look at the Book Labs”. Each day, Piper examines a passage of Scripture and you get to follow along as he studies the Word. The cool feature, however, is that each study has a video. Viewers get to see the passage of Scripture in question (in other words, they get to look at the book) while Piper annotates and marks up the passage during his study. All the while, Piper is commentating and guiding viewers through the study. The end results are great.

In my studies, I try to follow a particular pattern:

  • Observation: here is where I ask questions of the text. Who, what, when, why, and where type of questions.
  • Interpretation: In this step, I bring in multiple translations, commentaries, dictionaries and other extra-biblical sources to help me understand words or phrases that aren’t immediately understood.
  • Application: In this step, I ask myself how the passage I am studying applies to my life. Is there a call to action? Is there a change being asked of me? This is where I determine my response to what I’ve read.

I say all of this because Piper’s studies offer wonderful examples of the first two steps. I really enjoy watching as he guides me through his observation and interpretation. It is very insightful to see what mental processes Piper goes through as he approaches the text. Too often, Christians are tempted to skip observation and interpretation in favor of application, however, Piper’s studies certainly demonstrate how important it is to ask the right questions and take the time to observe and interpret. I am learning from his example.

At the end of each study, Piper also offers additional resources and sermons from his library that apply to the passage in question. I’ve been using his study as a launching point (each one takes 10 to 15 minutes) for my own studies and have tried going deeper into the text. Using these studies, a person can go as deep as they want. Piper’s goal is to teach people how to feed themselves … and I think these labs work wonderfully.

I checked today and these labs are all available on Piper’s website for free at http://www.desiringgod.org/labs. I highly recommend them.

Today’s Thanksgiving Run

So I stepped out my door this morning with the intentions of heading to the gym to get a treadmill run in, but I discovered the temperature outside was a little warmer than I expected at about 40 degrees. So instead of the gym, I hit my usual running path. I’ve been running inside too much lately, so I was thankful that the weather here in Ohio cooperated and gave me the opportunity to do something different.

I started off with a warm-up walk to shake the dust off and ease into my activity. My goal was a shorter run at a little faster temp than my longer ones … I ended up with a two mile run that dipped down to a 14:00-15:30 pace for it’s duration; which, though slow for most runners, is up tempo for me. So I had a good time. But, it was fitting that on this day of Thanksgiving I found myself praising and thanking God that I was able to run and get outside. There are times I get so focused on the task of losing weight and discouraged by minor setbacks that I forget to just be thankful for all God has done for me. Last year, a run on Thanksgiving Day would have been the furthest thing from my mind. When I was a hundred pounds heavier and beset with high blood pressure and diabetes, I couldn’t run. So I’m thankful God has given me the opportunity to change that. He truly has blessed me.

morningrun
Thanksgiving, 2015

I was also thankful this morning for the beautiful sky God painted. I was the only one on the path this morning so I felt like I was sharing the sky with Him alone. It’s a sky that I wouldn’t have noticed had I stayed in bed … so I’m glad God gave me the nudge out the door this morning.

My beagle Sadie

I’m thankful for other things as well. My wife, children, and church family are more than I could ever ask for. My little grand daughter Molly is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I even find myself thanking God for my beagle who, believe it or not, was an answer to my wife’s prayers. I am thankful for a God who has extended me grace, mercy, and forgiveness when I didn’t deserve anything but judgement. It is a testament to His character that I have been given a chance to live in the shadow of Jesus Christ. And I am thankful for everything He has blessed me with in the process.

Is my life perfect? Nope. I still screw things up from time to time and it seems like I fall short in some way every single day. But God is helping me focus on the blessings in my life and to forgive myself for my shortcomings. Sometimes, I tend to make the obstacles in my life bigger than my God … and that needs to change. I want God to be the biggest thing in my life so that all my troubles seem smaller.

My goal is to take the Apostle Paul’s advice:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

My prayer is that this spirit of Thanksgiving becomes my daily attitude from this point forward. It is also my prayer for you.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

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.

 

 

Lessons from Genesis: Prayers of Intercession

sodom-and-gomorrah-painting
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, an 1852 oil on canvas painting done by John Martin

My study this morning included God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The wickedness of these cities had reached such a pinnacle that God’s wrath was imminent, but He used the moment as a tool to reveal His very nature to Abraham. Before destroying the two cities, God visits Abraham and reveals His plans. This visit leads to an incredible exchange between Abraham and God:

23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” 27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes.28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten” (Genesis 18:23-32). 

I must admit this passage used to confuse me. I couldn’t quite figure out why God needed Abraham to remind Him of His own just nature. Quite frankly, the thought that Abraham had to negotiate for the lives of the righteous upset me. However, my confusion was born out of misinterpretation; what’s happening in this passage isn’t a negotiation – it’s intercession.

God is just. He knew exactly what He was doing when it came to Sodom and Gomorrah; but by allowing Abraham to intercede on their behalf, he revealed His gracious nature to Abraham. Yes God demands justice for sin, but in doing so He never sacrifices His own grace. God allowed Abraham to intercede for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and by doing so, He allowed Abraham to become a channel though which God’s grace flowed.

Abraham’s intercession for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is a reflection of Christ’s intercession for those who call Him Savior:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6) 

Just as Abraham interceded on behalf of the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus Christ intercedes on my behalf. With his prayers of intercession, Abraham was displaying a particular kind of Christ-likeness that I far too often fail to display. My prayers tend to be selfish, “God bless me!” – when a proper prayer of intercession should read, “God bless them!” 

My goal is pray less selfishly. I want to pray more for others. God knows exactly what He’s doing when it comes to His justice and His grace, but when I pray a prayer of intercession it shapes my heart to resemble the heart of Christ who prayed the most famous of all intercessory prayers …

“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

[View all posts in the Lessons from Genesis Series] 

Are You Lucky or Blessed?

image from genius.com

On the way home from work the other day, driving through a dense morning fog, I turned left without seeing an oncoming car. The car was coming at me pretty fast and, thanks to the fog, I didn’t see it until it was right on top of me. A collision seemed pretty imminent, but the cars missed each other by only a matter of inches.

That event has caused me to reflect on matters of luck verses matters of blessing.

Immediately after narrowly missing the other car I began praising God and thanking Him for sparing me from the accident. In my past life, I would have reacted differently. Before I was a believer, I would have attributed my good fortune to simple luck. However, I now know better. Proverbs 16:33 provides a solid principle for believers concerning matters of luck:

“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”

It’s every decision is from the Lord. From our limited vantage point, it may seem like we’re rolling the dice, but God is in control of the results. I’m not suggesting that God controls every roll of the dice during our game of Monopoly, but it is important for us to remember that the results of our dice roll is a matter of His providence or control. If I roll double snake eyes, it is only because he directly caused it to happen or because he allowed it to happen. Either way, God is in control. All things are a matter of God’s active or passive will.

When we attribute our good fortune to luck, we are failing to recognize God as the source of our blessings. In Christ, however, we know better. When we praise God for our good fortune it reflects a significant change of heart.

This is a pretty easy concept to grasp when we consider our good fortune but it becomes a little more difficult when we consider the bad things that happen to us. When something that seems bad enters our life (a job loss, relationship issues, disease, etc) it is still a matter of God’s providence. He has either caused it to happen or has allowed it to happen.

They key question we need to ask God amid such circumstances is, “Why?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, offers this thought:

“2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). 

When a Christian faces a significant event in life, be it a blessing or a trials, she should understand that God is in control of all things … and this understanding should have a huge impact on our response! When faced with good or bad fortune, we should seek God’s counsel and ask Him how we are to respond and grow and what we are supposed to learn from the situation.

I’ll conclude my thoughts with more from James Chapter 1 as it seems to apply well:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously andwithout reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8). 

 

 

 

Lessons from Genesis: The Innate Value of Human Life and Abortion

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

This verse should cause the reader of Genesis to pause and reflect on the innate, God-given value of human life. Genesis records God speaking multiple things into existence. The atmosphere, the earth, oceans, land, animals, vegetation – all of springs into existence as a result of God’s Word. Yet when He creates mankind He pauses and reflects amid the Holy Trinity, “Let Us make man in Our Image.

Mankind are fashioned in God’s image. Genesis 2 details the artistry that God employed when He made us:

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7).

The word formed in this verse is likened to a potter who us sculpting his are out of clay. Like an artist, God fashioned mankind from the dust with loving care. The prophet Isaiah put it this way, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). 

life
from wikipedia

There is innate value in human life simply because of the One who created us. The same God that created everything in existence (read John 1:1-5) paused and made human life extra special. We are distinct amongst all His creation as being made in His image. We are His image bearers. When God gave us the authority to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28) He intended for us to be His image bearers in the world. Human life is special.

But as we all know, sin entered the world and mankind drifted out of relationship with God. In the 4th chapter of Genesis Cain murdered Abel and displayed a terrifying lack of respect for life. I would argue that all sin has at its root a disrespect for life. When you steal from someone you are disrespecting the life they have worked to build. If you are violent, angry, hateful, lustful, bitter, or unforgiving toward another human doesn’t it all simply boil down to a lack of respect for their life? Perhaps nothing in our culture displays this lack of respect for life more so than the practice of abortion on demand. Almost 60 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. Cain took one life and it was significant enough to be recorded in God’s Word yet we have stood by and allowed 60 million lives to be taken in the last 42 years.

It is time Christians took a stand for human life. It is time we stopped and repented for allowing the practice of abortion to continue. God paused and put special care in the creation of humans yet we abort babies without so much of an afterthought. And that’s why the hidden camera videos recording Planned Parenthood staffers are so troubling. They force us to stop and consider just how disrespectful and immoral the practice of abortion is.

Abortion on demand is morally indefensible. Christ’s followers in the United States need to rise up and vote for candidates who will defund Planned Parenthood and work to reverse Roe v. Wade. We can no longer stand by and allow the practice of abortion to continue uncontested.

I’ve heard the arguments from the left. Hidden camera footage is unfair. The tapes are edited. Planned Parenthood provides valuable heath services to women apart from abortion.

Really?

No argument the left can trumpet surpasses the value of 60 million lives that have been lost. None. If you’re worried about healthcare for women, work to find a new way to provide those services apart from condoning abortion, but don’t pretend your arguments are more valuable than saved lives.

Doing so disrespects the God who breathed into us the breath of life.

Related Posts: What really Bugs Me About the Planned Parenthood Videos

 

Do Christians Have to Read the Bible?

bible1If the numbers are to be trusted, Christians, by and large, do not read the book they claim is the divine and inspired Word of God. A recent study suggests only 45 percent of those who attend church regularly read the Bible more than once a week. Overall, four out of five self-described Christians read their Bibles only occasionally or not at all.

Four out of five Christians read the inspired Word of their God only occasionally if at all. 

This statistic is earth shattering. And it seems we are full of excuses:

  • “I’m not much of a reader.”
  • “If you only saw my schedule, you’d understand.”
  • “The Bible doesn’t seem relevant to my life.”

Let’s get real for just a moment. It’s because Christians don’t read their Bible that that they don’t know their Bible; and because they don’t know their Bible there is often a disconnect between what they profess to believe and how they live their lives.

As a Church, we need to tackle the epidemic of Biblical illiteracy head on. Jesus Himself said that not everyone who declares “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven because they never knew Him (Matthew 7:21-23). King Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7), yet many of us walk through this life neglecting the very Word of God which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

The great challenge before our preachers and teachers to inspire their congregations to fall in love with the Word of God. If the Church in the United States were to fall in love with the Word of God we would experience a revival like no other! Yet many of our churches (and even whole denominations) are moving away from being Scripture-focused and becoming more secular in their appearance. As a result, the Church is losing influence and is no longer distinct from the culture that surrounds it.

Our Church leaders need to continually confront their members with the Word of God. We need to preach it, teach it, sing it, and encourage and exhort our members to study it in their own quiet times at home:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

We need to destroy the excuses that separate Christians from the Word of their God. Not much of a reader? No problem, their are countless reading plans and daily devotionals that will allow you to encounter the Word of God in just a few minutes each day. Have a busy schedule? You will make time for what is important to you. The Bible doesn’t seem relevant? Really? Did you encounter any stress, problems, jerks, sin, people, pain, obstacles in your day today? The Bible can help with all of that.

Does a Christian have to read the Bible? Make no mistake, Jesus died for your sins and is your one and only path into an eternal relationship with God. But a hunger for God’s Word is a clear sign that you have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter urged his readers to “[put] aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, [and] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it [they] may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2). And our churches must do the same. 

If the Church wants to stand as a beacon in this world, it must reclaim the power, beauty, and mystery of God’s Word and pass it along to His people. That is the challenge that stands before us.