The Abortion Debate: So Much For The Authority Of Scripture

            I have a question, “What makes a child conceived due to rape or incent not created or less created in the image of God?”  God’s answer: nothing.  What about yours?  No one denies the difficulty and hardship caused by an unplanned pregnancy and no one denies that it is magnified when it occurs in the case of rape or incest.  The abortion issue has been a political lightning rod for a longtime, but due to comments made recently by Todd Akin, the republican senate candidate from Missouri; it has once again re-emerged in prominence.  In response to a question concerning whether or not he believes abortion should be legal if the pregnancy occurred as a result of rape, he said the following, “From what I understand, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut it down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”  Now it must be said that the first portion of his statement was totally inaccurate as there is no evidence that a woman is able to stop conception in the case of rape.  Akin has since apologized for his misstatement.  But the second part of his comment concerning who should be punished in such an unfortunate circumstance was not only accurate but biblical.  Sure, he might have phrased his view in perhaps a better way, but I contend all of us could’ve better phrased some of the things we’ve said before as well.  As you might expect, the Democratic Party pounced on Akins statement in a desire to paint both the Republican Party and especially its nominee for president, Mitt Romney as extreme.  The Republican Party fired back with a response of its own.  They first called for Akin to withdraw from the Missouri senate race.  Thus far, he has refused.  They then spoke of the extreme views that President Obama holds on abortion.  Lastly, the Romney campaign affirmed their pro-life stance, but with exceptions, those exceptions being in the case of rape, incest or health of the mother. 

            It’s no surprise to see biblical authority under attack.  It’s been under attack.  It’s challenged daily, as various interest groups, politicians and citizens debate different cultural issues that exist in our society.  Naturally, abortion and when life begins has not escaped this debate, but along with gay marriage, it is perhaps the most vicious of any of these debates.  This is especially the case during a major political campaign season.  The response of non-Christians should not surprise us.  When you don’t believe in God, why does His authority matter?  If you do believe in Him, it should.  But as Christians, we are also guilty of parsing the issue of abortion on the basis of rape or incest.  This is not a biblical position.  When God said, “Let us make man in our image…” He didn’t follow it up with, “except in these circumstances”.  Since when did rape or incest change the authority and the truth of Genesis 1:26?  Just because a child is conceived in sin, doesn’t lessen their rights nor does it change whether or not that child is made in the image of God.  Is it any less a sin if a child is conceived out of wedlock?  While there are certainly politicians who have spoken out and held firmly to Scripture regarding this issue, many cower in the corner afraid to speak out for fear of their political futures.  And while the Republicans, of which I am registered, seek to take a higher moral ground on this issue, the practical result of Romney’s stance is no different than the Obama position.  Both ultimately place man above God and spit in the face of biblical authority.  God will not be mocked.  I wonder if our politicians realize that we’re living the consequences of our denial of His authority, our sin.  I wonder if they realize that because we suppress His truth and exchange it for a lie that His restraining hand of grace is being removed from our nation.  Mostly, I wonder if they care. 

            This is not only a question for our political leaders; it’s a question for each of us.  Have you ever really read Romans 1:18-3:20?  Thankfully, there’s Jesus!  There is always hope in Him.  But we must never presume upon His grace because He is not bound by it.  It is His unmerited favor.  God doesn’t live in the world of relativism.  That’s the world we like living in because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  The argument of “my stance is more moral than yours” doesn’t win His favor when that stance in itself is contrary to His will.  Sure we want policies that lead to fewer abortions and not more, but don’t mistake an abortion policy that has exceptions for rape or incest as being biblical because it’s not.  God is a holy God.  He is a God of absolutes and He has absolutely made His will clear on abortion, the issue of life and when it begins.  What is also clear is the lack of courage among many of our political leaders.  As they do most things, they view abortion through a political prism rather than the prism of Truth.  They seem more interested in political expediency and advantage than anything else.  Their actions deny God’s blessings for faithful obedience in spite of hardship.  Each political party accuses the other side of being extreme, but what’s extreme is the audacity of both sides to disregard God’s authority.   But more than anything, it appears both parties want to focus on the other side’s position because they really don’t want to have to explain theirs.  But one day, they will.  One day, we all will.

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God’s Sovereign Freedom

“Ancient paganism thought of each god as bound to his worshipers’ by bonds of self-interest, because he depended on their service and gifts for his welfare.  Modern paganism has at the back of its mind a similar feeling that God is somehow obliged to love and help us, little though we deserve it.  This feeling is not well founded.  The God of the Bible does not depend on His human creatures for His well-being, nor, now that we have sinned, is He bound to show us favor.”      -J.I. Packer-

                                                                                                                                        

Church

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12) 

                Most every Sunday, our pastor says, “The church is not the building, it’s the people.”  It’s true!  Of course, no church is perfect because every person who attends is imperfect.  But it’s a blessing when you experience personally within a body of believer’s the purpose of the church lived out.  Until a year ago, it had been 18 years since Karen had worked outside of our home.  For those years her sole job was taking care of us.  She still does that, but now, due to both a desire to work and increasing expenses for the foreseeable future, she began another one.  Kids, college and cars will do that to you.  So you ask, “How does that have anything to do with Ephesians 4:12”?  Let me explain.  Since 2001 Hunter Street Baptist Church has been our church home.  We’ve truly been blessed to be part of that church family.  For six years Karen spent practically every Wednesday morning doing Bible study with the same group of ladies.  Because of work, the time in which they meet now conflicts with her schedule. 

               “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” A main theme Paul emphasized in Ephesians was unity within the church.  He taught thatdespite different backgrounds, unity should be the natural outflow of the redemptive work of Christ and exhorted the Ephesians to that unity.  He also taught of the diversity of gifts within the church.  He said, “…grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).  This statement was not a reference to saving grace, but to grace given to serve in Christ’s church.  Paul then spoke to the churches purpose.  Church leaders, gifted in various ways to minister the Word of God are called for the purpose of equipping the saints for the “work of ministry”, for “building up” or strengthening the body of Christ.  It is to develop another person’s life through acts of love and encouragement.

               As Christians, God has given each of us a spiritual gift in order to serve.  It’s His gift; we are really just stewards of them.  These gifts are to be used as we minister to others.  If only the body of Christ was more dedicated to this calling?  If only Christians would use their God given gifts, if only they would do what Paul encouraged Timothy to do, “fan into the flame the gift of God”, there’s no telling what great things God would do through His church (2 Timothy 1:6).  As Karen has taken on another chapter of her life, I know she is thankful for the time she spent with Margaret, Jenny, Emily, Ann, Pam, Janet and Carla.  She has been ministered to and encouraged by all of them.  For my part, I have no idea what spiritual gift God has given any of them nor do I even know them very well.  But I know this, they have loved my wife and I am grateful for that.  What a blessing it is to see God work through His church and through His people to build up the body.  Nothing unifies like Jesus does and through Him, Karen will always be unified with these ladies.  They’ve promised that her spot will always be there should her schedule change.  This is but one example of what Paul was encouraging in this passage being carried out.  I’m sure there are others.  It is also a testimony of God’s work in the life of our church and His work personally in the lives of these ladies.  But most of all, it is a testimony to the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has shown His grace so brightly in the lives of His people.  To see people living out God’s call on their lives, enabled to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, and done all for His glory.  Now that’s what I call church!  

Prayer

Father God, thank you for the people who take your Word and your purposes for the church seriously.  Thank you that you have given grace to accomplish these purposes.  Thank you mostly for Jesus Christ who accomplished our salvation that we may know you.  Help me to take seriously your call for the body of Christ.  Let the gift you have given me be used for your glory.  Amen!

The Issue Of Life And Politics

                My wife Karen and I stumbled onto a youtube video earlier in the year called “Newborn Blessing”.  It was a song and prayer from a mother to her newborn baby.  I have included the link below for your viewing.   As I watched the video, I was reminded that as the political season heats up; the issue of life, when it begins and a woman’s right to choose will be prominently debated.  It always is.  Due to recent events, this issue is once again garnering much attention.  But God and His Word never change. There are so many political interest groups that will push their own agenda as it concerns issues of life.  I know that there are those who think differently than what I believe concerning this.  At one time, I held a different and very wrong view concerning abortion.  I held that view because God was never factored into my consideration of what is right.  Included also in this video were several passages of Scripture.  Here are a few:  “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).  “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).  David, Israel’s greatest king authored this psalm.  He knew that God’s interest in him came even before he was born.  These verses in Psalm 139 are not the only ones that recognize the personhood of a fetus.  When we search the Scriptures, it is impossible to weave around what these passages say regarding when life begins and when His care for us began.  I know our culture is working hard to teach us differently, but God’s Word is clear here; it is clear whether or not we choose to submit to its authority.  Unfortunately, as with many other issues, we have chosen to elevate our thinking above that to which God has spoken.                  

                So, the question remains, “What do we do moving forward in this political season?”  Simply this;  we engage in the political process and seek candidates who maintain a healthy reverence for God; submitting to His authority concerning this and any other issue in which He speaks.  But make no mistake, the issue of life, when it begins and the rights of an unborn child has to be settled in our hearts first and foremost.  Will you hear from Him or will you turn away from His Word?  Politically, this issue may never be settled, but it can be settled inside each of us.  Way too often we have sought human solutions to spiritual issues and they are always destined to fail and dishonor God in the process.  Why not look at this time, and in this moment, to the One who had the first word, and the One who will also have the last.  Don’t look to politicians, political interest groups or your own reasoning for answers.  Look to God for He has had the answer all along.  When you do, you’ll find that not only will no political interest group be able to sway you, but the answers you receive will always be the right ones. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwc33wBf9w0&playnext=1&list=PLB2D58BECF4E63A4C&feature=results_main

Dear Anne: A Response To Her Comments On Same-Sex Marriage

I came across this picture and quote from Anne Hathaway and thought it deserved a response; a Biblical one:

 
            Anne Hathaway has an opinion concerning homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  It happens to be an opinion many have.  But implicit in her comments are assumptions that are just not true concerning those who have a different opinion.  She spoke of how in her household being gay was no big deal and that when her brother came out they hugged him and told him they loved him.  A couple of points:  First, being gay is a big deal; just as adultery, murder, stealing and lying are a big deal.  All sin is a big deal to God because He is holy God and He calls us to be holy as well.  Second, her comment concerning her brother makes it seem as if it happened that a person opposed to same-sex marriage had a family member who was homosexual that they would not love him or her.  Not true!  If it did cause that, well, that would neither be right nor Christian.  Christian love is not condoning sin, but praying for deliverance from it.  As Jesus did, we are to always love the sinner, but hate the sin, no matter the sin.  To love God and His Word more than human opinion is never wrong.  As to Anne’ claims that her stand is not because she is brave but decent, I must reject.   For those who believe her stand is brave, it’s not.  The easiest position to take in our culture today is the one that rejects God, and decency is certainly not reserved for those who share her position on this matter.  In fact, some of the most indecent responses have come from pro-gay groups’ protest of those corporations and persons who don’t share their values. 

            I personally reject the whole idea that pro-traditional marriage is somehow unloving and that to be pro-God is necessarily anti-gay.  Pro- God is pro-God, centered on His will expressed in His Word, not just on this particular issue, but all issues.  For those who disagree, you may not care or agree with what God says, but don’t act as if He is not clear on this issue.  He is abundantly clear.  You have just chosen not to believe Him.  As to Anne’ claim that love is a human experience; it is much more than human experience or emotion.  Love is the objective truth of God.  That love came in the person of Jesus Christ and was displayed most fully at the cross.  It is where Jesus willfully went to save us from our sin, and though we may always struggle with it, His intention or desire never was or is to leave us in it.   

Choosing Our Religion

“…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) 

            I suppose that if we could choose our own religion there would be many truths of the Bible that we would exclude.  We would probably leave out final judgment and the reality of hell.  Suffering and trials wouldn’t be part of the Christian life.  Some might act as if God really had no opinion concerning marriage and divorce.  And Jesus’ compassion toward sinners would be taken to mean that sexual sins, including homosexuality were not offensive to God.  We might even create a religion where Jesus was but one of many ways to spend eternity with God.  Many have chosen a religion that conflicts with what the Bible teaches as it’s pretty clear that over time, instead of God’s, man’s personal views and preferences determine right and wrong.  Why is it that we so desire religion meet our standard and conform to our feelings?  Many long for the days of the past when it was different, but was it really different or have people, at least in some form or fashion always been attempting to choose their own religion?    

            “…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” The “whole counsel of God” refers to the entirety of God’s redemptive plan given us in His Word.  Paul’s travels took him many places. His three year stay in Ephesus was the longest of all the places in which he ministered.  As he prepared to leave, he expressed to the elders of the church that he would not be responsible for their moral or spiritual failures.  As Paul dealt with the issues of his day, he refused to omit teaching aspects of God’s Word that might be offensive to some.  He was faithful to preach it all, even the truths that were difficult for people to accept. 

            In God’s Word we find many great promises for those who believe, but there are some hard truths as well, truths that just don’t meet with our sensibilities.  But our sensibilities are not the manner in which God is measured.  Our sensibilities are tainted by sin.  There are certainly those who deny Biblical truth with evil intent, but I also believe that many deny it with only good intentions.  However, well intentioned and seemingly compassionate or not, it is equally wrong.  We must submit to God’s standards and His wisdom in every matter.  People always seem quick to want to criticize religion, but I contend the problem is not so much with religion, but man who practices it.  Unfortunately, even in our good intentions, we have denied God’s absolute authority in many matters of faith, and instead of Jesus Christ, we have placed ourselves on the throne.   When such is the case, it is a religion worth criticizing.  But that’s not the religion of the Bible.  The Christian religion, the only true religion is the one where Jesus Christ alone sits on the throne, the central figure in all that God has done to secure our salvation, guaranteeing eternal life.  Now that, I contend, is a religion worth choosing. 

 Prayer

Father, your Word often conflicts with my good intentions.  But your Word is always true while my good intentions are always tainted by sin.  Thank you for such clarity in your Word concerning issues of life.  For without it, we would be left to ourselves in determining right and wrong.  There are many truths of Scripture that are impossible to understand apart from your Spirit.  Thank you for grace in giving us the Holy Spirit to accept your Word.  Thank you also for grace as we proclaim those truths to others.  Thank you most of all for Christ, who alone cleanses us from sin that we may have eternal life.  It is in His name we pray.  Amen!

Holiness Pursued

“No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part.”  – Jerry Bridges –

            In his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges uses an illustration of a farmer to support the above quote.  The illustration emphasizes how important it is that the farmer tends to his responsibilities in order to ensure a healthy crop.  He must plow, sow, fertilize and cultivate.  But the farmer also knows that for his crop to be successful, he is ultimately dependent on God.  Somehow we’ve worked into our theology that God’s grace in salvation allows us to be passive as we live out our Christian lives; that daily time with the Lord is optional, that prayer is only for the major issues in life and that obedience really doesn’t matter.  That’s not what Scripture teaches.  It teaches clearly that we are to pursue holiness:    

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  Philippians 2:12-13

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Hebrews   12:14                                                  

“Train yourself for godliness” 1 Timothy 4:7

            These verses don’t teach or even imply salvation by works.  But they do support what is known as the doctrine of sanctification whereby Christians grow to be more spiritually mature.  Sanctification means to “set apart” as holy to the Lord.  It is a never ending process in which God works in the lives of believers to make them more like Christ.  Our active role in this growth doesn’t mean we contribute to our salvation, for salvation is all of God.  There are however, tremendous benefits to our disciplined pursuit of holiness.  As the Holy Spirit works in your life and you become more responsive to the will of God, you will experience more joy, more comfort, and more peace.  God not only wants that to be your Christian experience, even more, He wants to be the source of those experiences.  When such is the case in our lives, He is pleased, but more than that, He receives the glory and honor that He is due.  And that is what He deserves the most.